The Reflective CIO - So you still want to be a CIO?
Welcome back! I figured
it was about time to follow up on my original blog. Last time I discussed six
time-tested observations I have made over fifteen years as a CIO. This time I
thought I’d offer my perspective on a couple of topical subjects:
The evolving role of the ICT Organisation
The evolving role of the Chief Information Officer
You might believe that
the two subjects are intrinsically linked and I would agree but I would suggest
that the linkage will be radically redefined over the next couple of years.
1. The Evolving Role of the ICT Organisation
First off, what are the
main drivers for change? Well that might include:
· Increasing the focus on
· Freeing up scarce resources
· Reducing the costs of running
· Gaining access to a wider pool
· Refocusing on core business
· Maximising profitability
· Improving service quality
· Achieving profitable growth
· Increasing customer
· Reducing risk
· Increasing customer loyalty
At the same time you need
to respond to emerging trends and realisations:
Let’s start with a clear definition. I like the definition provided at www.BusinessDirectory.com – “Almost total lack of meaningful differentiation in the manufactured
goods. Commoditised products have thin margins and are sold on the basis of
price and not brand. This situation is characterised by standardised, ever
cheaper, and common technology that invites more suppliers who lower the prices
That same definition that applies to products can be applied to
the services that are associated with those products. Hence the trend in organisations to divest
those services which have traditionally formed the backbone of the ICT Organisation.
BYOD – Now-Generation Outsourcing
An appropriate response
to Gen Y and Gen Z consumers (i.e. staff and/or customers) is to let them
redefine ICT as we know IT. The hardware is now user defined and
supplied. The software and operating system is outsourced and managed over the
cloud and Apps are readily available to download to devices of their choice.
In this scenario, the potential responsibility of the ICT
Organisation or entity becomes that of providing secure (i.e. portal) access
and facilities to update corporate information. BYOD is not without its
challenges and it needs to be carefully planned and executed (see http://byodstrategy.com/)
Customer Self-Service –ultimate
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)?
undeniable trend is that of customer self-service. How can it be possible that
you can get customers to answer their own queries or choose their own product,
at their own expense, in their own time? And there’s more: they can process
their own payment, up front, and even make their own arrangements for delivery.
Yes and we will rate those businesses very highly!
world is changing!
Whereas organisations were once faced with two primary options:
a. In-house – The generally
low value, low cost option
b. Outsourced – The
generally higher cost, higher value option
There is now a multitude of variations available including:
Sole-Sourcing – Outsourcing to one principle vendor
d. Multi-Sourcing –
Outsourcing to multiple vendors
e. Co-Sourcing – Partnering
with a firm that employs staff to meet your long term needs
as a Service
With the emergence of the cloud, a proliferation of ‘ICT as a
Service’ variations have emerged providing choices to organisations. These
a. Software as a Service (SaaS)
b. Infrastructure as a
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
d. And other variations are
emerging such as Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS).
In essence, these services provide for organisations to procure
‘turn-key’ solutions on a regular (eg. monthly) subscription basis. As a
consequence the assets remain the property of the service provider as with the
responsibility to apply upgrades and refreshments over the contracted term.
In some cases, these services can also be integrated with buy
back and leasing arrangements to facilitate flexibility with financing and for
those with existing assets.
Overcoming of the ICT Stigma
Fairly or unfairly, many
ICT Organisations carry a reputation for underperforming and failing to deliver
business value. Some are judged to be expensive and lacking in capability and
frequently external service providers are viewed through rose coloured glasses.
Implications for the ICT Organisation
When you add it all up,
it would seem that the writing is on the wall for the ICT Organisation. Indeed,
it’s fair to say that the writing has been there for some time. Certainly, as a
CIO I have been presenting that message to my teams since at least early 2000.
As I look back now, those teams bear very little or no resemblance to the teams
of today. On and off-shore outsourcing
and more recently the cloud, have
played a major part in redefining them.
In Gartner’s IS Lite
publications from 1999, they have espoused the virtues of a slimmed down IS/ICT
organisation. Much of that work continues to be relevant today. However, things
look to be destined to move to yet a new level. I would expect to see:
a. Acceleration of the
slimming down of ICT organisations
b. The emergence of new
governance structures to accommodate what I refer to as ‘External Trusted Advisors’
Further divestment of ‘demand-side’ responsibilities i.e. some
aspects of architecture and strategy development, business enhancement (e.g.
project management) and technology advancement (e.g. prototyping)
d. Emergence of new roles
and capabilities to generate business value in areas such as data analytics,
open data, business intelligence, social marketing etc.
They have been saying that the “mainframe is dead” as long as I
can remember. The reality is that they are still around but their role that has
changed. Likewise, ICT organisations can survive but not in their present form.
How will you and your organisation be impacted:
What’s your value proposition?
Are you relevant?
What differentiates your services from those of others?
If your organisation has the right answers to these questions,
you might survive and even prosper.
So what will this mean
for the staff of the ICT organisation? Well, the technical skills will still be
needed but those opportunities will mostly be with ICT Service Providers (SPs) including
Cloud SPs. There will continue to be
a place for high value capabilities including vendor management, strategic
planning, relationship management and portfolio management. Otherwise, it will primarily
be those occasional bad experiences with vendors that will slow down the inevitable
transition to outsourcing and particularly ICT as a Service.
2. The evolving role of the Chief
So, with the prospect of
his/her empire crumbling, will “CIO” finally stand for “Career Is Over”? Well,
in some cases the answer is yes. For others it will depend on two main factors:
How progressive is the CIO?
How aligned is the CIO with the CEO?
Progressive CIOs will be reflecting on this blog as confirmation
of the career development strategy that they already have in mind. Others might
re-think theirs and start getting on board. The remainder I will call Blue Sky
CIOs – because they see no room for the
cloud – are most likely to dismiss the scenario I’ve outlined as being
unrealistic. Well, to each, their own. What is for certain is that the role of
the CIO is evolving. What is equally certain is that the role is evolving in
different directions. These include that of:
Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
CDOs will typically have
experience with digital technologies, e-commerce and digital transaction
processing, social media and online marketing. They will be concerned about how
digital changes marketing, recruitment, procurement, sales and finance. They
will be heavily involved in data analytics and in employing Business
Intelligence and influencing business strategy to adapt to the Digital Age. The
CDO's focus is customer-focused (front end) technologies.
CIOs/CTOs toil to keep leading
companies abreast of cumbersome, enterprise-wide technology upgrades and
efficiencies – virtual servers, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and IT
infrastructure of all kinds. The domain includes the maintenance of Enterprise
Architecture, policies and standards was well as traditional ICT services such
as Desktop support, telecommunications management, applications development. As
these services increasingly become the domain of external service providers
over the cloud, the role will become
The ‘Hybrid CIO’ reflects the evolution of the CIO as a business
leader, tasked with leading business transformation with equal focus on
business process optimisation, information exploitation and technology
innovation. In the scheme of things, this will result in the technology taking
a back seat with emphasis switching to stakeholder management, vendor
management and cloud service brokering rather than ICT service delivery.
Business Process Management and Data Analytics (as with the CDO) will be at the
It’s also worth contemplating
the role of the ‘Virtual CIO’. For SMEs unable to retain a permanent CIO and
for larger organisations requiring CIO capabilities to plan or oversee transformational
changes, this might present an answer. It might apply for traditional, hybrid
or even Digital nuances. Essentially we’re talking about CIO as a Service
(CIOaaS) which may have particular appeal to organisations contemplating a move
on from their current arrangement but being less certain of the flavour they
With each alternative
role I expect significant change. The likelihood is that the traditional
CIO/CTO will operate with a reduced sphere of influence – to a large part
reverting back to the role of ICT Manager and being consumed within the domain
of the CFO, CMO or even the CDO. Not all CIOs will make the transition to CDO
and many will choose not to. For those that don’t, I suggest that transition to
the ‘Hybrid CIO’ role would offer a better alternative and (possibly) a
transition step to being a CDO.
It’s going to be an
interesting time ahead for both CIOs and ICT organisations. Now would be a good
time to contemplate what the coming changes will mean for you as a CIO or an
aspiring CIO and to position yourself to make the most of it. Thanks for
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Associate Partner, Information Professionals
has over 30 years experience as an ICT professional including 15 years
in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include
ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and
ICT alignment and stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable
for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments
and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation.
Labels: BPO, BYOD, CDO, CEO, CIO, CMO, co sourcing, CTO, Evolution CIO, Hybrid CIO, IaaS, ICT, In house, IT, multi sourcing, out sourced, PaaS, SaaS, sole sourcing, Virtual CIO