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What’s the State of the CIO?

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The life of a CIO? It’s complicated. That’s the conclusion of CIO Editor in Chief Dan Muse, introducing the publication’s 2017 State of the CIO report.

“Moving apps and workloads to the cloud, ensuring legacy software can talk to off-premises apps, and keeping networks and systems secure remain core functional tasks of the CIO role,” Muse writes. “At the same time, boards of directors, CEOs, and business colleagues are turning to the CIO to lead digital transformations, win customers, and drive revenue.”

Transformers rule the day

The report finds that more CIOs see themselves focused on strategy than those viewing themselves in functional roles. Both sets are outnumbered by those who view themselves as transformational – fully half of the total of surveyed participants.

The magazine’s cover story points out that “Seventy-two percent of respondents to the State of the CIO survey said they were struggling to strike the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence.”

The findings surely reflect that CIOs continue to sit at an inflection point as they navigate options for legacy, private cloud, public cloud and hybrid mission-critical applications.

Hybrid IT landscape emerging

Large, integrated single-vendor product suites are gradually giving way to a hybrid IT landscape of core transaction “systems of record” integrated with best-of-breed software applications. Relatively few companies are in an “all cloud” mode, as many are still heavily dependent on fully functional on-premises mission-critical applications that continue to operate at a high level. But they can’t delay waiting for a newly updated ERP platform – businesses need to be able to deliver on business innovations today or risk being left behind the competition.

Clearly, CIOs are rarely viewed these days simply as IT order-takers, but rather more as business enablers. “CIOs are consistently spending less time bogged down with functional tasks like cost control, vendor negotiation, IT operational improvements, and crisis management — although to be clear, they still have to get those tasks done,” according to a white paper based on the survey results.

Yes, part of the job is focused on keeping the lights on, but CIOs are also expected to figure out how to do that more efficiently. They must be able to figure out how they can continue to wring out costs from core applications and fund new efforts that leverage their on-premises assets with cloud application delivery models.

Problematical maintenance licenses

That can be a complicated tap dance. For example, as Rimini Street recently pointed out, the maintenance policies of SAP and Oracle include many hidden costs and “research shows that many organizations spend an average of twice their annual support fees on additional maintenance costs every year.”

No CIO can afford to leave precious dollars sitting on the shelf in that manner. It negatively impacts his or her ability to devote resources to innovation and enabling new business opportunities.

Still, the CIO who is able to navigate these challenges turns out to be more satisfied in the job. “Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities, 62% of those polled said they see the job, in its current form, as more rewarding than it was in the past,” says CIO.

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