"The eyes of the owl face straight forwards, as do our own. This is a characteristic of the hunter, rather than the hunted. Just as lions have eyes facing forwards and their antelope prey have eyes facing largely sideways..." Naturalist and photographer Eric Hosking could well have been talking about CIOs. Mankind is a hunter, yet to listen to some of the talk about the CIO role you'd be forgiven for thinking that CIOs have eyes facing sideways, i.e. they act like prey.
The irony is technology always faces forwards looking towards its next meal, or the next vertical market to be remodelled by technology. But every month we see surveys and headlines where the role of the CIO is questioned. Often these globally broad generic studies have little relevance in the UK because the weight of responses from other markets and the metric facts are hidden from us in the name of spin.
For CIOs and any C-level executive to look sideways at all times is a strategy of short term survival. Watch enough David Attenborough documentaries and it becomes clear the hunter wins out in the end. Cast your eye over the business savannah and the same story unfolds, there are big beasts with Jurassic heritages grazing in the way they have for decades, heads down ignoring the presence of the online lion killing off the herd one by one. Listen to some behemoths and you'd think the public no longer holidayed, shopped, required information or a home to live in. Yet all of these things continue, even in a down turn. The landscape they chose to feed from has changed though.
The nation has slipped into recession again as the UK and Europe struggle to find economic growth. Bad news as it is, survival will come to those that are looking forwards. The internet, new manufacturing techniques, improved transport, smart information and working methods are set to create opportunities. CIOs and organisations looking at these as potential hunting grounds will survive; the alternative is to watch new hunters seize authority.
CIOs have an inherent advantage - all that data from organisational heritage is a rich food source for new opportunities. So ignore the barks of wannabe hunters, focus the eyes forward and let the organisation know where it can go hunting.