As a humorist, American author Mark Twain would undoubtedly have been amused by this variant of his famous quote. But the demise of enterprise CIOs’ traditional role is real, (unlike the misreports of Twain’s passing), and to understand this phenomenon, we need to understand the evolving market dynamics.
Three key trends are significantly altering the shape, structure, and operations of today’s CIO office:
Cloud services: Unlike infrastructure, IT governance, and IT security teams, which are generally shared throughout an enterprise, large numbers of applications developers are normally aligned to specific businesses. Due to the complex labyrinth of multiple teams and decision centers, applications developers face substantial difficulties in fulfilling their business-based project sponsors’/budget holders’ demand for quick time to market.
To overcome these challenges, applications developers are increasingly adopting cloud-based infrastructure/platform-as-a-service (PaaS). This allows them to bypass the other IT teams, (e.g., security and infrastructure). By leveraging cloud services, applications developers no longer solely rely on enterprise IT’s infrastructure and operations to develop and test their applications. They can develop, test, and even host their applications on a cloud-based platform. This is causing challenges for the CIO’s office in terms of reduced involvement with businesses, security issues, and audit risks.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Although it is part of the cloud ecosystem and has been in the marketplace for more than a decade, SaaS is treated as a different segment. The challenges with deploying enterprise software in the traditional manner, (e.g., ownership of licenses, hardware, support, upgrades, etc.), coupled with the significant time to deploy and the high rate of failure, are driving business to push the CIO’s office toward a “cloud first policy.” For simpler applications that do not require organizational support, (e.g., infrastructure, data, integration), businesses are more than willing to leverage the SaaS model. And to avoid getting embroiled into the complex labyrinth of organizational IT, businesses are also hiring contractors to perform specific IT-related tasks. Additionally, as businesses’ appetite to wait for months, even years, without knowing the possible outcomes of an enterprise software deployment is depleting fast, they are increasingly viewing SaaS as the solution.
Digitization and business-IT budgets: Although cloud services and SaaS are disrupting enterprise IT, the biggest challenge facing CIOs is the shift of technology budgets to the business. This typically includes initiatives such as big data analytics, multi-channel customer engagement, social media, CRM, and enterprise mobility. While the CIO’s office plays a role in these initiatives, it is fast losing decision-making powers. CEOs and CFOs are now inclined to spend technology dollars on business initiatives that generate growth, e.g., digitization. Therefore, in a boardroom battle for technology budgets, CIOs are increasingly losing against the businesses (e.g., chief marketing officers and chief digitization officers). The growing perception that digitization is for growth and IT is for efficient operations also works against the CIO’s office.
Despite the fact that a CIO’s office will always exist, there will be an increasing debate around its utility in its existing form. While the misalignment of business and IT has been an age-old debate, the cloud age has finally provided businesses with the ammunition required to change the game. Cloud services, next generation technologies, techno-savvy business users, and the pivotal role of technology in an organization’s growth are creating pressure on enterprise CIOs. They need to act fast to prove that Mark Twain was indeed right and stem reports of their death.
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