The Future-State CIO Starts Here

Why an external focus is the right way for IT leaders to stay relevant

The fact that the 2010 State of the CIO survey shows an increased focus on the business's commercial aspects is a great sign for the future of our profession. It's perfectly aligned with what a CIO should be doing and must do more of to stay relevant and valuable.

I believe the economy has played a significant role in increasing our focus in this area. In a typical down period we are asked to reduce IT spending. But this has been such a profound recession that CIOs have been asked to use technology to make the company more efficient overall, including the processes that drive revenue. This has put a spotlight on the critical importance of building and maintaining an understanding of the commercial and customer side of the business.


Check out the State of the CIO Cover Story, data results and the 2010 State of the CIO Survey.

Also see: Business Strategists Gain Ground.


I hope this shift is more than a reaction to the challenges of the economy; that it becomes a permanent part of our profession's DNA. Many core technologies are becoming utilities. Developments in cloud computing, virtualization and software as a service, for example, are making the CIO role, over time, less about selecting, implementing and running systems and more about strategically enabling business success through information and technology. Meanwhile, IT is becoming more pervasive and critical than ever.

There is more competition, broader global integration and the continuous creation of new value chains. The CIO brings a uniquely comprehensive understanding of this complexity. All of these developments point to the CIO shifting from primarily running IT operations toward enabling and influencing business strategies through knowledge of IT capabilities married with an understanding of business needs.

I would like to see our profession build on 2010's increased emphasis on the external and commercial. Let's create a future where CIOs not only can play a strategic external and commercial role but are also called upon by CEOs to do just that. To this end, I will be working with the CIO Executive Council this year to continue to develop the journey toward what we call "The Future-State CIO." Please join us.

Louie Ehrlich is CIO and president of IT at Chevron and a board member of the CIO Executive Council.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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