Top CIOs Predict the Five-Year Future of the CIO

Entrepreneur, futurist, global talent scout and master of business metrics. Those are some of the roles that CIOs will need to play in 2017 to be successful, according to today's award-winning CIOs.

Tue, May 01, 2012

CIO — Five years from now, the CIO will be a better, faster, stronger version of today's top IT leader, practically running the company single-handedly. Or maybe other business executives will become more educated about IT and decide to hire cloud companies to do it all, leaving the poor CIO to wither, enforcing service-level agreements for a living. For almost as long as there have been CIOs, we've heard breathless speculation about whether the position will last, and if so, in what form.

Such nonsense ends now. Technology touches some part of nearly every product or service pulsing through the economy, weaving the industrialized and developing worlds together as never before. Without IT, business dies. CIOs are not going away. But what will the job become?

To sort through the many technological, economic, societal and political factors shaping the CIO role, we called on this year's CIO Hall of Fame inductees, IT leaders who were judged by their peers to have profoundly influenced the business landscape. We also canvassed the honorees of our annual Ones to Watch program, which selects rising stars who are likely to become the next generation of CIOs and business leaders.

Their predictions are smart and may surprise you.

There's little support for the facile idea that the CIO job will split into a CTO and CIO pair working as peers on the org chart. CIOs often have CTOs reporting to them, but the positions aren't likely to become equal, says Dave Weick, the CIO of McDonald's and a CIO Hall of Fame honoree. The break would create unnecessary disconnect between technology and information strategies, probably slowing decision making and possibly generating discord, Weick says.

And today's big technologies--cloud and mobile computing, social media, consumerization, and big data--won't themselves alter the CIO's fundamental role. At least not for top CIOs who already know that their job is to manage change, not technology; to set strategy, not server thresholds. But certainly these "big five" technologies will continue to let companies create new products and interact with customers in important new ways, just as prior technologies did.

It is the ability to handle, and spark, major business shifts that determines a CIO's effectiveness, says Steve Rubinow, former CIO of NYSE Euronext and current CIO of FX Alliance, a foreign exchange technology provider. "CIOs have always and should always understand the pace of technology change, decide what's ready for prime time and use what's right for business," says Rubinow, who also enters the CIO Hall of Fame this year. "Now, it's just smaller and smaller time frames."

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