The Evolving Role of the CIO: Thrive to Survive or Become Extinct

By Erin Harrison

As more enterprises embrace cloud computing, the role of the chief information officer (CIO) is evolving into more of a consultancy position. Today, CIOs are not only responsible for the infrastructure of the organization and CAPEX, but also for the OPEX associated with maintaining and scaling the exploding number of applications that must be supported for various internal business processes.

While some analysts and industry prognosticators believe that the role of the CIO will one day become obsolete, the operational impact of outsourcing IT services will lead to the merging of the CIO and the chief operations officer (COO) roles, as the corporate network becomes increasingly business-critical in nature, according to research commissioned by Brocade.

The CIO’s role has essentially evolved into five main types and will continue to change over the next few years; these categories are: The Enforcer, the Mediator, the Evangelist, and the Strategic Consultant – all of which have high, excellent or good survival rates. And then there is the Dinosaur, which will become extinct unless this type of CIO begins to embrace the ongoing evolution of IT.

The uptake of the cloud and the democratization of IT away from the IT departments’ control is driving an evolution of their role towards consultancy and mediation, according to Alberto Soto, vice president of EMEA at Brocade.

“To access applications, information and communications systems, the network is not just another device in the same way as a tablet, laptop or smartphone – it is the enabler of all business communications, activities and transactions. If that network is not managed and developed appropriately, the consequences can be significant and financially damaging,” Soto said in a statement. “The role of the CIO in ensuring access to applications and services will become increasingly operationally critical, strategic and central to an organization's growth.”

The Brocade study of 100 CIOs revealed that by ensuring the right infrastructure is in place, CIOs will be free to adopt more strategic responsibilities, evolve into an operational position and ensure their long-term survival.

In fact, almost half of CIOs questioned expect the evolution towards cloud adoption and the increase in business units owning their own IT procurement processes to mean that they will spend far less time worrying about the nuts and bolts of their IT infrastructure overall.

However, three quarters are concerned that service level agreements (SLAs) will not meet minimum requirements, and over half worry they will be unable to predict data volumes and bandwidth requirements and therefore be unable to manage the network effectively. Both issues could lead to significant levels of downtime and slow application response levels, impacting productivity and risking both regulatory non-compliance and loss of business, while increasing IT costs.

Only 20 percent of those surveyed saw the role of CIO – as typically defined today – eventually becoming obsolete, and not within the next 10 years. Instead, the respondents believe the role will evolve to cover a broader business range with a third stating they see themselves continuing along a path towards becoming more involved in strategic discussions.

More than a third surveyed confirmed that cloud services had been deployed by business units in their organizations without the involvement of IT, and two thirds see business units procuring cloud resources by themselves much more by 2020.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

Executive Editor, Cloud Computing

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