Business Management

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

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 development of new technology has truly accelerated in the last few years. With the emergence of laptops, smartphones and tablets, phenomena such as bring your own device (BYOD), cloud, big data, social media and desktop virtualisation have come into effect, redefining enterprise boundaries and shaking up the status quo that CIOs have been used to. With each new technology promising to deliver cost savings or increased productivity, it can be difficult to know where, when and how to invest. Meanwhile, corporate IT budgets have continued to be squeezed due to the on-going economically challenging climate, putting ever greater pressure on the CIO in their role to innovate.

Where the IT department has traditionally been considered a necessary arm of the business to protect assets and ensure employees aren't opening up corporate systems to malware and hackers, it has evolved to become more of an enabler. Indeed, CIOs now have the opportunity to use these new technologies to make cost-savings while improving efficiency and productivity - to continue to protect, while facilitating change.

Driving change
More than ever since the end of the industrial revolution, technology is providing ways to improve efficiency and make life easier for businesses and employees. So much so that many employees are taking matters into their own hands to push businesses to make their lives easier. And the increasing consumerisation of IT is giving them the tools to do it. As a CIO pushing the boundaries of innovation, if users are looking outside of the tools provided, then this is something that needs to be addressed, otherwise the enabler role cannot evolve.

Whether it is secure remote email access or cloud-based collaboration, employees already have high expectations and preferences when it comes to the tools they use at work. The main focus is on how to enable this securely and within budget. However, innovation shouldn't be for innovation's sake.

Looking before leaping
It sounds obvious, but we are consistently surprised by how many businesses buy new technology based on hype without considering how it fits into the wider corporate strategy. One example is big data. While in-depth analysis of big data can have a profound impact on businesses that deal with large data sets (and our work with Scarborough Acute NHS Trust has shown that big data can truly be a life-saver), it's certainly not going to be for everyone.

Similarly with the cloud, it's something which has been subject to a lot of publicity however; its application is not necessarily going to be vital to every business. Being able to access data wherever you are has obvious benefits, but this needs to be weighed up against the potential security risks that anytime-anywhere access throws up. For businesses dealing with highly sensitive information on a daily basis, it could be a step too far, and a costly mistake.

That's not to say that big data or cloud trends and developments should be avoided, far from it, but what is vital is that CIOs temper enthusiasm for new technology with a strategic look at how these support the wider business plan. The old adage remains true in a more technologically advanced world - look before you leap.

Bringing it together
It does sound contradictory, but enthusiasm for the new technologies that are needed to drive change in a business needs to be balanced against budget priorities and long-term strategic planning. The CIO who wants to innovate and help a company progress must be able to manage this tricky balancing act - and find the money from unused technology or software if needed.

If planning to invest, it is essential to take an honest and unbiased view of the available solutions based on system and employee requirements, future plans and, most importantly, what technology is already in place. Not only can this help to reduce costs, but it can also ensure agility and make sure that any purchases made are as future-proof as possible.


By Simon Rutt, Services & Solutions Director, Trustmarque



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