As business leaders increasingly look to IT to drive business results, now is the opportunity for CIOs to recognise the new realities, apply new rules, and drive their organisations forward, said Gartner analysts at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2010 in Orlando this week.

Gartner analysts told an audience of more than 7,000 IT leaders that firms now have different expectations of their CIO.

"This new type of CIO won’t ask first what the implementation cost is, or whether something complies with the architecture, but whether it’s good for the organisation," said Gartner analyst Hung LeHong. "They will train their teams to think like a business executive, asking first ‘is this valuable?’, and only then asking ‘how can we make this work?'"

The new CIO and their team will be experimenting with new ideas, working with product development, marketing and public relations to come up with ways of delivering more value directly to the external customer, said LeHong.

Gartner analysts said the IT industry is at the start of a new era, and how IT leaders act will be shaped by three realities of that new era: "the power of unprecedented choice", a "wild open world", and a "shift from outputs to outcomes".

Power of Unprecedented Choice

CIOs might not recognise choice in action, when what they feel is loss of control – IT losing control of the infrastructure, control of applications, and control of devices. IT leaders should rethink whether it’s really a loss of control, or whether it is choice in action.

The Wild Open World

People leave a trail of what they’ve done online, leaving a rich body of information about their interests, intentions and activities. The data, much of it unstructured, contains nuggets of wisdom buried in various formats such as videos, podcasts, and blogs.

A Shift from Output to Outcome

The reality of unprecedented choice and the reality of the Wild Open World are forcing the third new business reality, a shift in business concern from outputs to outcomes. For IT, outputs are measured in terms of projects completed, budget run-rate, servers deployed, network uptime, etc.

Outputs are proxies for cost and risk. Gartner analysts said cost is important, but it is only one direction of a CIO’s compass. In contrast, by focusing on outcomes, CIOs will also address value and innovation.

Gartner also sees three new rules that will be constants into the new era. CIOs are urged to apply these rules to lead their business (not just the IT organisation) forward. These new rules include: smart control, intelligent business, and IT dynamism

Smart Control

Users now have access to unprecedented IT choices. They can access them how they want, where they want, on whatever device they want.

Users can achieve incredible things without the IT department, but they can only maximise their IT capabilities with the IT department. Smart control is about managing technology in tighter alignment with business goals by loosening the grip on IT.

Intelligent Business

In the new era, IT leaders are in a position to shape how intelligence will be gathered, shared, consumed, and used by everyone in their organisation, as well as how that information will be turned into intelligence.

To support an intelligent business, people in the organisation will need to have access to the full spectrum of information that supports questions. If IT leaders do not help, they will be locked out because employees will find the information from whatever source they can: transactions, video, mobile activity, tweets, search activity, blogs, text messaging, and social sites.

IT Dynamism

Under the old rule, IT was tasked to develop solutions that delivered a specific business function and often had a “one size fits all” mentality. IT made deep, single-vendor commitments and pushed a core application to the far edges of the organisation. The residual effects of this approach are being felt now – rigid systems where change is time-consuming and costly.

"In the new era, we routinely need to start projects without knowing all of the requirements," said Gartner analyst Eric Knipp. "We know that if we wait we’ll be too late to market. We also know that the dynamic nature of intense global competition forces us to redo previously well understood requirements at the drop of a hat. IT dynamism is the new rule because it means 'build to change'."

In other advice to IT departments, analysts at Forrester published 15 technology trends that they must track over the next three years to stay ahead of the game.