Rethinking the I in CIO


By Samuel Greengard

One of the inescapable realities of today's digital workplace is that there's absolutely no way to stay ahead of the technology curve. Things happen so fast that nary a day passes without some technology or device leapfrogging another and changing things … and sometimes changing everything.

Once upon a time, a CIO orchestrated the use of elaborate enterprise systems and helped ensure that chunks of data were fed into and out of these behemoth systems. IT clearly ran the technology show in the client-server era.

Today, the employee tail often wags the enterprise dog. BYOD, for example, is more than a way to eradicate the hassle of buying and managing gear for employees. It's a fundamentally different way to operate IT and run an enterprise. It drives consumerization which, in turn, profoundly alters IT and changes the way people interact and work.

Let's face it, a CIO must depend on others—from senior executives to entry-level employees—to serve as the active eyes and ears for the enterprise. CIOs must think like a futurist but dispense technology like a pragmatist. It's also critical to approach IT with a level of creativity that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

It's reasonable to think of the CIO as chief innovation officer, chief intelligence officer or chief integration officer. In fact, a combination of the three might be more apropos. Ultimately, the CIO’s role is to create value and build the bridges and highways that lead to a more prosperous business. The task is to combine all the dots of IT to create a sum that's greater than the individual parts.

This means thinking and acting in more entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial ways. It means taking an entirely different view of technology and using it to create sparks and fires that may or may not ignite the enterprise. In the end, this means fundamentally understanding mobility, social media, crowdsourcing, RFID, clouds, big data models and much more. But it also requires an understanding of how to make it all work with legacy systems and software.

More than anything else, today's environment requires CIOs and other tech leaders to embrace the right brain in order to think whole brain. In this new order, creativity is just as important as knowledge and a vision is just as critical as a view of IT.