Where To Now for CIOs?

I’ve just attended 3 different CIO (Chief Information Officer) conferences and it was very interesting to see the challenges that CIOs are facing and the different perspectives that people have about the role.

In the US, where I attended CIO conference in New York, there was a strong view that this was a great time for CIOs, IT had never been more relevant and it was a great opportunity for CIOs to become key board members of the companies.

This is in stark contrast to my experience and opinion, certainly what I see is that with consumerisations and commoditisation of services, outsourcing and offshoring,  the role of the IT department is diminishing and under threat.

We no longer do the low end work and when it comes to the high end work many of the consultancies are better placed to be able to provide the expertise the business needs, especially if they are also providing Business Processes service too.

Also, from my perspective it seems that fewer and fewer CIOs are actually board members, most of the ones I have recently work for have been either part of a Global Business Services department which included other administrative services such as HR, Finance, Legal, Facilities and Procurement, either that or the IT department has been separate, but the CIO reported to the CFO.

The landscape for IT is rapidly changing with the proliferation of smart devices, the demand for mobile applications which can be used anywhere anytime, and the rising data volumes that need to be dealt with, many of the traditions skills and solutions just don’t apply.

The changes in IT over just the last 5 years with the introduction of iPhones, iPads, Social media applications we really are facing a revolution and a change in the way the we see and use computers.

We’re also in the position where many of the customers and consumers of services are significantly more knowledgable than ever, when I first started out in Computing  the IT department had all of the computers, very few people had devices at home, either they didn’t exist or the prices were prohibitive.

Now people often have better and more powerful devices at home, everyone is becoming computer savvy.

Generation Y, as they are called, are now extremely savvy quite often they have stopped using applications IT organisations are trying to get a grip with and have moved onto the next latest and best thing.

My own children don’t even use email, the staple communication tool in many companies, they claim its too slow. They were into Facebook at the start but have now moved onto other applications which as whatsapp, snapshot, and others I didn’t even know existed, let alone have used.

It all reminds me of when I was 17 and in school studying physics and we had a lecture on Transistors. The teacher was 62, and I thought to myself how can you teach me about transistors they didn’t exist when you went to university or were in school.

And now here we are trying to figure out how to build applications for people who will be joining the work force who have grown up with smart phones, collaborations tools, etc etc

Who’s best placed to see what the next wave will be, where technology will go, what great innovations will be. Is it us, the people with 20-30 years of experience, much of which is now becoming irrelevant, or will it be this new generation who have only ever worked in this brave new world.

Unfortunately I don’t have a clear answer for you, just the question.

But I do think we sit on the edge of the precise and if we don’t act, embrace the new technologies and find ways to ingrate them rather the looking to prohibit them, then we will have gone the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

I would be very interested to hear anybody else’s view.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles