by David Rosenbaum

The Changing Face of IT

Sep 01, 20063 mins
Data Center

Good magazines, successful magazines, no matter what their ostensible subject, are driven by an underlying theme, a meta-story. Without that conceptual foundation, a magazine becomes a mere collection of articles, an anthology rather than a novel.

In the ’50s, Playboy’s meta-story was the loosening hold of Puritanism on America. In the ’60s, Rolling Stone’s theme was youthful rebellion against aging authority. The booming economy of the ’80s inspired Esquire to infuse consumption with sophistication, while Inc. celebrated the rise of the entrepreneur. In the early days of the Internet, magazines like Wired and Fast Company and Industry Standard were all about revolution. Anything new was, by definition, good; everything old was simply…hopeless.

These themes informed every article those magazines ran, dictated their design and determined their presentation. The magazine’s success depended on how well its meta-story reflected its readers’ dreams and realities.

But as times change, so must the meta-story. If it doesn’t, the publication becomes irrelevant. To wit, Playboy is no longer a cultural leader; Industry Standard is just a lingering memory on the Web.

CIO, thankfully, is still here because it always has been designed to reflect its readers’ reality. Consequently, our meta-story has gone through several changes.

In the beginning, when the CIO role was new, our meta-story was about gaining respect. CIOs were trying to change their image from the guy who fixed the computers to a C-level executive with broad enterprise responsibilities. Accordingly, we celebrated CIO accomplishments; we cheered each and every success, even when they were (frankly) pretty small.

When the Internet bubble burst, our meta-story changed. We emphasized running IT like a business. We ran articles about communicating IT value, about how to cut costs. We warned CIOs against complacency; we argued for managerial rigor.

Today, the story has changed again. Computing is moving from the enterprise server and the desktop to the Web; applications are turning into services; and the nature of the CIO’s job is moving from a technology role to a business function even as the IT department morphs from a reactive provider of services to a proactive driver of top-line growth. Our new meta-story is about transformation.

To that end, this issue’s cover story is “How to Hook the Talent You Need” (Page 40) by Senior Editor Stephanie Overby. It describes the changes IT is undergoing, and it tells you five things you can do today and five things you can do tomorrow to hire the enterprise architects, business analysts, developers of services and managers of business processes that this new paradigm, this new story, demands.

Our success is based on how well we reflect your reality, so let us know how we’re doing. We want to be around the next time your story changes. And it will.