Business Management

Antonio Piraino (Global) - The Developing Role of the CIO, and Why It's Changing the Way We Do Business

In a new series of articles on the changing role of the CIO, IDG Connect offers expert insight into how the development of new technology is affecting IT departments.

The fundamentals of the CIO role continue to be associated with the strategic planning, implementation, and adaption of technology as it pertains to the business' needs. However, the process, tools, and scope of options with which these objectives are obtained is rapidly altering the way we do business. The attachment and cultural implementation of technology into every facet of business productivity, as well as the automation of manual procedures, are examples of the paradigm shift being embraced most notably among mid-sized companies today. Those that are acclimatizing the quickest are exercising many of the following traits:

Less technology-exertion, more people-insertion
It may sound like a cliché, but in reality, the customer is the focus of the CIO strategy, not the product/infrastructure. If there are ways to furnish customer constituents with services that meet their expectations from a performance and functionality perspective, while retaining cost and security integrity, no one will question the underlying resources. The customer has never been more important to the entirety of a business.

Less power broker - more services orchestrator
The abstraction of business productivity applications and manipulation of data from the underlying commoditized IT infrastructure means that the CIO will be more responsible for financials, legalities, security, and extensibility of services, and less responsible for technical robustness, integration, and infrastructure operations (including governance policies). Ironically, IT groups are retaining their silos since more of the traditional technical activity is being transferred to low-cost IT service specialists. In general, the CIO will have smaller human responsibilities, but broader responsibilities required to broker services maintained by a few of these back-end infrastructure authorities.

Those broader responsibilities demand a greater awareness of the cloud options available. Today, SaaS is option number one, followed by managed hosting, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), colocation and other outsourced Capex-reducing alternatives. The CIO quickly becomes the orchestrator of where workloads reside, describing performance needs in the form of SLAs and coordinating resources appropriate to different workload needs. It also means less time spent on evaluating architectures, security vendors, and other software tools for internal purposes. The exception is the monitoring tool used for control and visibility that has the CIO telling their cloud vendor: I trust you, but let me just validate that you're doing it right.

Less concession, more compliance
The scope of the CIO's reach will be worldwide given increasingly global cloud regulations around where a transaction takes place, where the final data resides, etc. These regulations invite greater cloud participation by international IT service providers. As cloud computing use grows, governments will become more involved in regulation, creating a worldwide opportunity for CIOs to chance their job role to that of an international power broker, ambassador, and even diplomat. However, not all regulation is to be viewed as an inopportune penalty, or worthy of evasion, but rather as an opportunity to extend the reliability, archiving, Disaster Recovery (DR), access controls, and privacy features that should be the natural needs of any serious enterprise.

Less security, more protection
When the Russians and Chinese seek cyber security, it often means in the form of privacy and speech. The Europeans spend a great deal of time on heightened cross-border data compliance and common legal models. The US tends to prefer a less ‘big brother' approach and more openness in many cases. CIOs need to become experts in cyber-security and the nuances amongst different countries. That includes CIOs needing to take charge of disaster recovery plans as a critical component to running IT needs across the globe, and meeting consumer demand for more physically and logically secure environments. What's changed dramatically in the past few years is the role of concerning oneself more with the security of the data and who's using it, rather than the hardening of infrastructure devices - giving us more, but tighter, access options.

Less cost, more work
A recent study by Changewave Research shows that almost half of all enterprises don't think that cloud changes their IT spending habits, while 21% say it reduces their ability to spend in other IT areas (with only 15% saying the opposite). Most organizations that make the strategic decision to leverage the cloud typically do so more for agility over cost reduction.

For example, many IT decision makers involved in reducing server and datacenter footprints over the past few years through virtualization are now grappling with VM sprawl. What next? Watch for application and data sprawl. With less patience and more options available to a broader spectrum of non-technical groups in the organizations, more tactical decisions are being made that circumvent the traditional pairing of business strategy to technology needs. Centralizing control of data and applications through centralized management systems, as well as the use of virtual desktop, are areas that CIOs are becoming far more engaged in, and the reason why the ease of SaaS access is often constrained.

Less reaction, more vision
Until recently, most IT decision making has been somewhat reactive in nature. CIOs are now learning more about their market through big data analytics, and also about the consistency of their product, service, and operational cost efficiencies through Operational Business Intelligence tools. The knowledge of how workers are using new IT technologies in the era of BYOD and Work on any Device (WOAD) means that there are new ways to get work done and new rules under which data can be created and accessed. This is all moving CIOs to the role of proactive defender of proprietary business concerns, and also that of creator of new business productivity tools and information that help us get ahead of the market we're after. Similarly we should expect to see CIOs more involved in social media and marketing campaigns just as much as the IT Tools in use, and their own governance demands. "Do we know our market?", and "are we spending money in the right places?" should be questions we're all able to answer far more confidently in this day and age.


By Antonio Piraino, CTO, ScienceLogic



« Peter Smith (Global) - CIO vs. CMO


Simon Rutt (Global) - The Role of the CIO - Enabler or Protector? »


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?