The flood of new uses and devices combined with the maturity of the internet has had a disruptive impact on people and business, above and beyond that of IT. We all experience this in our daily lives; the question is what does this mean for business, the IT professional, and the CIO in particular?
First and foremost, a CIO is best placed to horizon scan for the business. This includes spotting the trends, evolving the IT team role to one that leads business change, as well as identifying and providing insight into how best disruptive technologies can impact business.
IT was the end result of a period of ‘disruptive’ change starting with the introduction of the PC and networking, leading to the full scale business operating model revolution. The ubiquitous uptake of IT by business that arrived through the mid to late nineties makes it easy to forget what a huge disruption this was, and how many leading technology venders couldn’t adapt to the change and consequently disappeared. There were similar challenges for computing practitioners as the skill set required to implement and operate the new technology for various business requirements was different.
Today we are working with the disruptive change of tablets and smart phones, in association with a range of new technology disruptive elements; cloud, mobility, social tools, big data, big process, etc. This new wave of computing technology is being applied by a new generation of business managers in completely new business roles based on the front office and a revolution in ‘how to do business externally’ is taking place - under the title of ‘business technology.’
We’re already starting to see a shift in global IT spending and as a result a change in the nature of not only the CIO, who today should be on the board, but also the role of IT teams.
KPMG identified that CIOs are ceding some control of IT procurement to other departments. There are signs that, while centralised IT budgets are being reduced, more is being spent on technology as service departments make their own procurements. This is being intensified by the increasing take-up of software as a service and social media, and while it is transforming many organisations it is also a challenge to the central IT function; one to which CIOs need to adapt.
The growing interest in cloud technologies and utility computing provides the scope for more of this independence. If the cloud service providers take responsibility for ensuring that infrastructure and applications keep running, departments will feel less need to turn to central IT function or justify to a CIO any procurement to meet their business needs. They will also feel that they can have their own conversations with suppliers about specialist functions, scalability and security; and they can circumvent the possibility of the IT team turning down a request.
This is a challenge for the CIO who will have to redefine the relevance of the role and team. Today’s CIO and his or her team need to ensure they retain their credibility by demonstrating that they are the prime source of expertise on technology, the changes and opportunities it can bring.
CIOs need to be ahead of the curve. They need to understand what their organisation is doing and identify the threats and opportunities from developments in technology. Horizon scanning is an important part of the CIO’s role and should involve meeting thought leaders, networking with peers, meeting suppliers and potential suppliers to keep abreast of changes in technology and identify any implications and opportunities for their organisations. Equally, the team need to stay up to date too and keep a flexible attitude. The role of the CIO and IT team may change, but by maintaining itself as the source of expertise and ensuring that other departments think of them as the natural starting point in adopting new technology, and procurement – CIOs can continue to drive business change.