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The emergence of the hybrid CIO

Joe Poon, Vice President of Strategy, Asia, Logicalis | Nov. 17, 2014
Joe Poon, VP of Strategy (Asia) at Logicalis, talks about the continuing evolution of the Head of IT or CIO's role, and how he needs to absorb new functions or risk losing his influence in technology buying decisions.

Behind the perceived threat from the cloud and service providers, there is an opportunity for the CIO — an opportunity to create a new kind of IT department acting as a critical connector between the business and its technology and IT service needs and the range of providers the business may choose to work with.

The IT function will become a kind of pseudo service provider, freed from the burden of supporting legacy technology and instead focused on selecting and delivering technology solutions that support business agility and which are aligned with a wider business strategy.

The above statements are not just my predictions.  This view was shaped by responses in in a survey that Logicalis conducted which asked CIOs from almost 200 mid-sized enterprises worldwide a range of questions about their roles, how their time was spent and so on.

The results told us that CIOs were acutely aware of the 'threat' from Shadow IT, the cloud as well as a range of other issues. The survey found that CIOs are determined to respond to the threat by reshaping their role — to focus on strategy rather than maintenance.

Shadow IT, which Gartner describes as 'technology introduced into an organisation that has not passed through the IT department', is a new development that is beginning more commonplace. A familiar example of this is BYOD but, significantly, Shadow IT also includes enterprise grade software and hardware, which is increasingly being sourced and managed outside of the direct control of the organisation's IT department.

Examples include enterprise wide CRM solutions and marketing automation systems procured by the marketing department, as well as data warehousing, BI and analytics services sourced by finance directors.

So why have so many technology solutions slipped through the hands of so many CIOs? I believe a confluence of events is behind the trend; there is the obvious consumerisation of IT, which has resulted in non-technical staff being much more aware of possible solutions to their business needs — and becoming more tech-savvy. There is also the fact that some CIOs and technology departments have been too slow to react to the business's technology needs.

Research from recruitment firm Harvey Nash seems to confirm this new evolution of the CIO's role is taking shape, and fast.  Of the many findings from their recent survey of 2,029 CIOs from all over the world, three significantly stood out for me:

1. CIOs are now less focused on 'keeping the lights on', and gravitating toward core activities which will have a direct contribution to the business' success.

2. About half of respondents now see that the CIO has succeeded in making technology 'fundamental to competitiveness', and the IT team is increasingly known for delivering innovation value


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