By Samuel Greengard
The role of the chief information officer is changing faster than a performer at a Broadway musical. Once upon a time--and it was only a few years ago--the typical CIO pondered how best to purchase and operate centralized IT systems that would allow an enterprise to plug in data at one end and spit it out at the other.
That was then, this is now. Clouds, mobility, social media, big data, geolocation tools and more have turned things upside down and inside out. BYOD and the consumerization of IT crumpled the old way of doing things. And the relationship of data and technology to business is undergoing a profound change.
Consulting and IT research firms say that line of business executives increasingly control IT spending. For example, Gartner predicts that by 2017 CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.
Yes, you read that right.
Some CIOs will say this is the tail wagging the dog. Actually, it's the dog wagging the tail. Business has always been about business, after all. Technology is merely a way to unlock productivity and control or drive down costs. Line of business executives should control the direction of enterprise IT.
The role of the CIO, however, isn’t marginalized. It means that CIOs must adapt and think in entirely different ways. At the heart of the issue is understanding how best to manage information and connect it to all corners of the enterprise, as well as to consumers and business partners.
You might say this has always been the role of the CIO, and that's partly true, but today’s businesses must balance the crush of new technologies with the goal of extracting maximum benefits. This means being on the leading edge rather than on the bleeding edge. A CIO must spend adequate time investigating and playing with new technology. He or she must explore the wild frontier of social media, mobility and geolocation services--in some cases, putting on the goggles of a 23-year-old hipster.
Yet, it's also critical to bring sound business reasoning and experience to the table. In some instances, this means acting more like a CFO or CSO. In the end, an organization must possess a clearly defined strategy, firmly established standards and procedures, and safeguards that reduce the risk of choosing a dead-end tech path.
It's no simple task. But it seems as though nothing is simple these days.