In the recent past, the role of the CIO has once again come under scrutiny. Earlier, it was about how unaligned business and IT were, raising the question of a CIO’s relevance. This time around, it’s worse. With the advent of cloud computing, many are asking whether companies even need CIOs given that IT needs can be rented or strategically outsourced. Jaideep Mehta, country manager, IDC India, rubbishes that theory.“Whether we are talking about a CIO or any C-suite position, the role will die if the individuals populating it don’t respond to changing times,” says Mehta.There’s reason to believe that the role of IT will only become more important—not less. Mehta points out that as companies fight for survival and respond to temperamental and uncertain markets, they desperately need two things: Agile processes and flexible people. The good news? Technology can enable both of those. Mehta says that businesses are constantly under pressure to conquer three big challenges: The pressure of volumes and revenue growth, the pressure of handling Dalal Street, and the pressure to battle extremely stiff and increasing competition. The CIO, he says, can play a central role in easing each of those challenges. “The CIO is in the best position to usher in transformation, be it by making processes more agile, or finding new ways to do business, or by reaching new markets and creating innovative products, or by making employees more flexible with increased automation and flexible processes,” he says.Referring to IDC research, Mehta says that organizations are trying various strategies to respond to the needs of today’s market. In most cases, it is IT that is making the change possible. He shares the example of an Indian organization that went and acquired a new company to increase its market reach in the ASEAN region. Overnight, the company established a presence in six new countries. The CIO, of course, landed up with having to manage a whole new technology ecosystem based in multiple foreign countries.“Without the CIO’s agile strategy, the whole acquisition would have failed,” he says.This is the scale at which CIOs can make a difference, says Mehta. Today, organizations expect CIOs to become a partner in change. According to IDC research, in 2013, 50 percent of the KPIs that CIOs carried were actually oriented toward innovation and business outcomes.“The message is clear. The business obviously sees the CIO as a trusted change agent,” he says. From exploring new markets, to creating innovative products and services, and from understanding the end customer’s psychology, to making a real difference in how smoothly and quickly a company can respond to market needs, the CIO is the eye of the storm,” he says.