The changing role of the CIO: Adapt or die
Written by Matt Graham-Hyde
There has been a lot of speculation along the theme that CIO no longer means Chief Information Officer, but instead stands for Career Is Over. Well I disagree, far from being over the career and role of the CIO is just as essential to business today as it has ever been. It is though, being transformed and reinvented by today’s major technology innovations and adoption of the digital society around us.
The reinvention rather than extinction of the CIO has begun, however, I do believe that only those that can adapt to these changes will survive.
What is at the center of this reinvention?
The hypothesis is that Social Media, Big Data & Analytics, Mobile and Cloud Computing represent an unprecedented change and challenge to both businesses and IT functions. This hypothesis is being born out in the every day lives of millions of people leading both society and business in radical new directions.
The power of these technologies and others in bioscience and 3D Printing can already be seen in the restructure of the personal health, retail, financial services, media and entertainment industries. The rapid growth and sophistication of these technologies are combining to create an innovation explosion that is increasing their impact as they interact together.
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At the root of the change for CIOs in simple terms is that cloud has changed everything by allowing the cheap highly scalable computing power, which is needed to manage the high volumes of transactions and data produced by social media and mobile in particular.
These volumes require big data analytics to understand the data in new ways to drive businesses processes, customer relationships and revenue generation, placing the CIO in the revenue accountability hot seat.
These changes are being rapidly followed by the adoption of sensor-based technology, which brings more new technology challenges across all businesses. If you are in a business that doesn’t feel disrupted or relevant to these pressures, it is only a matter of time before your industry will be impacted by these forces of change and every CIO will be right in the middle of this revolution.
This will feed the “Internet of Things,” when machine-to-machine intelligence will mean the majority of business information is created, stored, analysed and responded too with minimal intervention from people.
With the almost exponential growth of social media use with mobile devices, the CIO has to open up the corporate infrastructure in Starbucks, to staff, clients, vendors and services across the entire business. As a CIO, the reinvention of how we have the systems and capabilities to deal with this is just another area that will need a radical new approach. Can a CIO’s traditional IT best practices and architectures respond to these needs?
The changing role of the CIO
These technology shifts will disrupt every aspect of a CIO’s role. A CIO in any business, who ignores the impact that these technologies have, and ignores the fact that their role needs reinventing, is on a dangerous path.
Not everyone is going to agree with this point of view and there are still concerns over things like cloud governance, global performance, standards and the vendors themselves. This is especially true for the public based cloud computing and analytic style service businesses. Personally, I don’t share these concerns. In my experience, vendors such as Amazon and Google take these matters extremely seriously, they just have a different approach, but one that is no less rigorous or secure. Major international banks and organisations like the CIA have overcome these concerns.
Some CIOs I talk to, still believe that these technologies are purely for consumer based technology services and not for mainstream business.
There are further concerns on the cannibalisation of the IT function and its value, a concern over the potential loss of control of the organisation’s technology and long term investment plans. These concerns are best dealt with by being at the forefront of this change, as the current IT functions are being reshaped and in many areas replaced by the new cloud based technologies.
I think to start the reinvention journey, we have to have some understanding of why it is happening and to do that, I feel there is no better place to look, than at the new young technology behemoths that have been created in the last ten years.
Vast scale computing power at low usage cost
This change really got underway with the launch of Amazon Web Services in 2006. This exposed to the outside world how Amazon had reinvented the way infrastructure could be built, managed and developed in a way that did not rely on the principles of previous technology evolutions, but on architecting computing based on almost Lego-like building blocks of small low cost computers.
This is challenging the technical, financial and management models of computing that have existed for decades and allowing small businesses, as well as businesses of 100,000 people, to have the potential to access vast scale computing power, at low usage cost.
The Internet and cloud computing based revolutionary shift in Information Technology will change the technology industry completely and with it, the role of the CIO. It will regenerate the vendor landscape, improve business speed and agility, while reducing costs for all industries.
It will make access available to massively powerful computing, storage and communications to everyone with ease, and there will be apps for everything. Thus, putting a relentless pressure on the CIO and strain on traditional IT thinking and provision.
Ripping up the current rulebook will be a difficult task; career structures, vendor validation, control and governance have become unwieldy and bureaucratic.
All these rules and best practices exist for a very good reason. They exist to make the running of IT predictable, reliable and cost efficient, all of which are completely reasonable goals that won’t change, but the way we approach them will.
There is also a wide body of expertise and industry around these that contend that corporate IT cannot run without proper governance and controls. I am not proposing this isn’t the case, only that we need to rethink these practices and how they are applied, as they are not always going to help businesses respond quickly to disruption of their markets.
There are going to be new ways of managing IT outside of our current scope and the reinvented CIO will be at the forefront of these changes.
Matt Graham-Hyde is the CIO of Kantar and has over 15 years’ experience as a CIO in major international businesses. Matt is the author of “The Essential CIO” (£14.99 Panoma Press), which is available from Amazon now!
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.