by Sejuti Das

Is the CIO Role Nearing Extinction?

Oct 29, 20144 mins

New technologies are shifting power to the hands of the user, endangering the CIO role. But do Indian CIOs consider that a threat or an opportunity?u00a0

There’s no doubt that technology is the backbone of most enterprises today and that makes CIOs an important part of the corporate structure. But with the rise of new technologies that put power in the hands of the users, CIOs are slowly fading into the background. Or are they? Researchers from Gartner, while addressing the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo 2014 in Goa, stated that CIOs are going to be an endangered species in the new digital business era. According to Gartner’s study, CIOs’ role is increasingly threatened by digital business units that are acting as independent technology startups.

Also Read: CIOs are Becoming Endangered Species: Gartner

CIO spoke to some Indian IT leaders from different verticals to know what they thought. Here are their views:

T. G. Dhandapani, CIO, TVS Motor Company

To survive in this rapidly changing IT industry, a CIO needs to continuously improve and innovate, to enhance their organizations’ topline and bottom-line. The challenge, therefore, is that of ensuring that the business IT infrastructure is compatible with new business demands, thereby removing communication gaps. But in any case, CIOs are the ones who spend IT budgets, implement new technologies and continuously improve it. CIOs definitely have a significant impact on the competitiveness of their organizations, and judicious use of IT, which is essential for the success of any company.

Alpna J. Doshi, CIO, Reliance Group

Dynamic CIOs should be included and treated as innovation and digitization heads, in their businesses, in addition to their CIO responsibilities. I believe, CIOs—as opposed to being endangered—are actually getting elevated to become the next chief digital officers. It’s the businesses that are leaning towards sales and marketing, rather than being holistic, knowledgeable and technology-driven organizations. A CIO is definitely the right person to become a business CEO due to technology savviness that is required today.

Varun Sood, Strategy, Innovation, Transformation, M&A and Integration, Fortis Healthcare

I definitely agree that the age of technology CIOs is almost extinct now. CIOs are now morphing into business leaders. Their role has moved towards more business-oriented work and they are also taking decisions to make IT a business function. I totally agree that if CIOs stay in their ‘tech cocoons’ it will be tough for them to survive in this period. And as IT is having more conversations with LOBs, a CIO’s engagement is now more with business. Although, there is a huge change, but when it comes back to IT as a function, nobody understands the system better than a CIO.

Shailesh Joshi, CIO, Godrej Industries

The technology part of a CIO’s role has reduced drastically in the last several years. In my case, 70 percent of my key responsibility area belongs to business and probably only 20-30 percent actually belongs to hardcore technology. According to me, the role of CIOs should be to ensure technology enabled-business and that is definitely not going to die. Nowadays, everybody understands technology, but a CIO’s role is to use the technology to for business benefit. Anybody can suggest a technology solution to a business problem but only CIOs can implement it in the best possible way. They not only have to upgrade their technical skills but also with business functions.

Mohit Bhishikar, CIO, Persistent Systems

Digital business is more of an opportunity than a threat for CIOs. This is a big change to enable business with IT and therefore CIOs require agility and business centricity to stay relevant in this industry and not become endangered. They can achieve this best by dealing with IT modernization with efficiency, which can be complex and challenging but important to the enterprise for their digital transformation journey. The digital journey should focus on building new software-driven business capabilities and models in an incremental and iterative manner for a fast-changing environment.

Jaideep Mehta, Managing Director, IDC South Asia

Technology shifts are nothing new. Even the emergence of the Internet, and its associated eco-system has opened new vistas, through which businesses could leverage technology. CIOs have already sailed through that and, therefore, the CIO community can also evolve to meet the new challenges posed by third platform technologies: The SMAC stack. CIOs need to realize that this has enabled them to make IT decisions easily. Personal and team re-skilling is required to understand the business and customers. Their role needs to move from ‘make and buy’ to orchestrate and manage the delivery of services to customers by leveraging resources in a seamless way.