by Mike Altendorf

The CIO = the man that can?

Dec 22, 20115 mins
CareersCloud ComputingIT Strategy

2011. A year that will be remembered for many things – most of them not all that great. A was for austerity, B was for banking crisis , E was for… ‘euro bye bye’ and so on through a pretty miserable looking alphabet. From everyone’s perspective it was a year of uncertainty and the CIO was no exception. Unfortunately 2012 looks even worse when it comes to making any kind of predictions.

Even at the best of times however the rate and direction of change in the tech industry has always made prediction a mugs game. A few nights ago I was out with a bunch of old university friends. It had been a while (25 years to be precise) and we were talking about the last time we met. “I remember you being just like that nightclub bouncer in Phoenix Nights with the walkie talkie,” remembered one. “You went on and on about this car phone you had fitted and spent your life phoning the office saying ‘am I in range? Can you hear me?”.

I am ashamed to admit it but I loved that phone. It worked about 40 per cent of the time and the line was terrible but it made me feel VERY important because it was so big. The memory of it reminded me once again just how far we have come in the last 25 years and provides a neat intro into the first of the major trends that I believe will dominate the life of the CIO next year (yes I am one of those mugs). These trends are less about technology and more about behaviour. If there is one significant change I have seen in the last twelve months it is that now behaviour really is driving technology rather than the other way round.

1. Bring Your Own Technology

My carphone was the first piece of tech that I owned that was supposedly location independent. Except of course it wasn’t and at the time we just accepted that. You spent most of your time telling people you couldn’t be contacted for the next few hours/ days. We didn’t blame anyone. Today’s user not only expects to be able to use their kit anywhere to do pretty much anything but they also expect to be able to choose whichever device they want. The technology is now irrelevant – it’s all about what you can do with it. Pretty soon the work provided laptop and company phone will become as obsolete as the company car. Tomorrow’s employees will simply get a ‘tech allowance’ and the CIO will be expected to work with whatever flashy gizmo has caught their eye this month. From an industry perspective security and desktop virtualisation providers will benefit but times could get pretty tough for supply and support channels that have made a living supporting enterprise hardware.

2. It’s the Economy Stupid

The Governor of the Bank of England was recently asked for his thoughts on the economy in 2012. His response? “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, let alone next year!” That pretty much sums it up really. The economy is probably the single biggest influence on all our lives – including the CIO. The worse thing a CIO could do in this situation is nothing. The IT department needs to be driving business decisions – whatever those to be. With so much uncertainty the CIO and the management team around him is going to be even more dependent on the insight he can get from the data he has available. Data management and analytics are critical here as is the flexibility of the systems he has in place to adapt quickly should that be needed.

3. Social Goes Enterprise

As the social dust settles and the winners (and losers) become apparent the next big trend to emerge will be the adoption of social platforms by the enterprise. This is not about corporate Twitter feeds – this is about internal social platforms built around the business. ATOS recently announced its plans to ban internal email within 18 months ( stating that staff should use more collaborative tools based on social networking sites like Facebook and Google. By strange coincidence both companies are expected to announce a move into the enterprise space in the next year. The impact of this on the way we work could be immense and (by creating the environment for context, commentary and sentiment around data which, when combined with strong BI tools will be very powerful) be a key differentiator for the CIO, showing his value, time to insight, the quality of his information and the collaboration of his workforce with their end customers. This is a whole new way of working and the CIO needs to lead form the front to keep his job!

4. Taking The Technology out of Technology

The fourth and final trend takes us back to where we started. Fundamentally IT is not about technology any more. The concept of IT as a utility or a commodity has been around for ages (and who says IT isn’t cyclical?) but it is starting to become a reality. In my last article I talked about the role of the CIO as the Chief INFORMATION Officer and never has that focus on information been so important. The bits and bytes are not where he can add value and so that element of his job needed to be handed over. The IT infrastructure has become part of operations, like the physical offices. It should sit under the COO as part of facilities leaving the CIO free to focus on where he or she can really add value – turning data into insight.