CIOs of retail and consumer brands are getting increasingly proactive, with IT service management (ITSM) acting as an enabler, according to industry heads.

Speaking at a ServiceNow panel of CIOs in San Francisco, Barry Libenson, CIO of US supermarket chain Safeway said: "As recently as 10 years ago, the role of a CIO was just to keep the lights on; but not anymore. In the retail space, our job these days is to figure out how to help our company compete more aggressively in a tough market."

Libenson added that ITSM, concerned with the back office or operational side of IT management, was raising the proactive nature of their work, albeit with a caveat or two thrown in.

"Five years ago, I certainly wouldn't have felt that we would be placing as much faith in the cloud as we do today. And even to this day, there is and will remain a mix of cloud and data centres. That’s because, while I am a cloud enthusiast, I do not wish to place consumer data gathered via our customer loyalty programme on the cloud."

Ralph Laura, CIO of global consumer products manufacturer Clorox, also said platform as a service sat well with his way of thinking, and that his team was involved with strategising like never before. "For the first time in our history, the IT department has been working directly with the consumer side of things, as part of our 2020 vision aimed at a technology-enabled consumer strategy."

However, in agreement with Libenson, the Clorox CIO also expressed scepticism about putting consumer data on the cloud. "For a consumer facing company like us, customer information files are like the Crown Jewels. I will never place consumer data on the cloud – there are associated privacy concerns, and were there to be a breach obvious reputational damage."

Separately, Stacey Card, IT risk manager at Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q chain, said ITSM models the company incorporated via ServiceNow in 2012, had changed the way it administered audit processes.

"The project ended with us giving people the opportunity to review audits before they actually took place. It's therefore no exaggeration to say ITSM changed our audit admin, from providing one location for all audit and risk documentation to improved overall compliance across the organisation."

Earlier, CEO of ServiceNow – Frank Slootman – said in a keynote speech that CIOs had long drifted away from a "systems of record" approach to "systems of engagement".

"A proactive execution of service models by CIOs can only be good for the industry. IT heads are taking the service model to their core audiences externally and internally. If you take the word ‘services’ on the face of it, four out of five US jobs are in services, accounting for 68% of the country’s GDP," he added.

Slootman also said that despite there being a few spooked IT heads, "cloudification" was already happening.