by June Drewry and Madeline Weiss

The CIO of 2014: Venture Capitalist, Orchestra Conductor, Contract Negotiator

May 25, 20114 mins
Business IntelligenceCIOCloud Computing

Managing technology is becoming less important to the CIO role than managing change. You can already see it happening.

Imagine three very different jobs: venture capitalist, orchestra conductor, contract negotiator. Now imagine them all rolled into one.

Meet the CIO of 2014.

Now you may be wondering how we could be just three years away from such a momentous shift in the CIO role. Actually, it’s closer than you think—as the latest research from the Society for Information Management’s Advanced Practices Council (APC) confirms.

But first, let’s take a step back, to Nicholas Carr, the author of “IT Doesn’t Matter” and of The Big Switch, in which he predicted IT departments would be replaced by utility computing companies, much as electric utilities replaced company-run power plants in the early 1900s. Elements of Carr’s prediction are coming to fruition. Just about every firm outsources at least some computing functions and uses software as a service (SaaS) or cloud computing for others. According to Julie Smith David’s APC research, cloud and SaaS are truly IT game-changers. Development skills are being replaced with integration skills.

Will corporate IT survive? At a recent APC meeting, we asked the 30 attendees—CIOs of Fortune 500 companies—to predict how their jobs will be different in 2014. Not surprisingly, no one predicted the demise of his IT organization. In fact, workloads are increasing.

Agility, Innovation and Productivity

But the responses were consistent about the rapid evolution of the CIO role and the imperative to provide tangible value across their organizations. Several used the term “business strategist” to sum up their changing roles. Moving more computing outside the firm doesn’t simplify CIO jobs—it makes them more complex. Yet there are more and more opportunities to improve their companies’ ability to compete in ever-changing markets.

Even at the more technical levels, CIO roles are becoming more strategic, requiring strong business acumen. CIOs must emulate venture capitalists by staying on top of trends and searching for the most promising emerging technologies to support business innovation. CIOs must perform like orchestra conductors as they blend service-delivery offerings. And CIOs must sit at the executive table like contract negotiators as they control costs and mitigate risks with proliferating vendors.

CIOs must deeply understand their businesses, markets and customers so they can be equals within the C suite in defining corporate strategy. They must anticipate ways in which IT can enable innovation by differentiating their company from its competitors, and how IT can assist in making other strategic decisions.

At another APC meeting, we asked members how they could add more value to their companies. A consistent theme was encouraging people to think and manage more holistically to enable greater agility, speed, innovation and productivity.

So what does that mean, to “manage more holistically”? It can mean developing enterprise architecture, beginning with market analysis and business strategy, establishing effective IT data and governance, and instituting performance metrics that motivate collective rather than silo behavior. Our APC members are finding that success has less to do with technology and much more to do with change-management savvy.

Yet another evolving role for the 2014 CIO will be leading company strategy for turning data into useful information for decision making—a long-standing but elusive goal in most organizations. With the latest analytics tools, CIOs can cull intelligence from vast data stores to improve processes, expand business and win new customers.

Having passed along the more operational and relatively routine functions to outside firms, the 2014 CIOs who will be most successful are the ones stepping up now to hone their business-strategist skills.

June Drewry is former CIO of Chubb and a contributing adviser to the Society for Information Management’s Advanced Practices Council (APC). Madeline Weiss is director of the APC. Read the APC report on cloud computing here.