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The CIO Today

Mari Kitanori | Aug. 10, 2011
The changing role of the senior information executive, as seen from the frontlines of IT deployment.

David Dobson

David Dobson, Executive Vice President and Group Executive
Customer Solutions Group, CA Technologies.

CIO Asia recently interviewed David Dobson, Executive Vice President and Group Executive
Customer Solutions Group at CA Technologies, and asked him what he thought top information executives should expect from their bosses and business partners, and what they should be doing to meet the demands of their ever-changing job specs. His responses below.

What are CEOs asking for now (beyond what they've always been demanding)?
CEOs are thinking strategically and taking a closer look at investments that can transform their businesses and grow it over the long haul.

They are now demanding: innovation that can drive growth and enhance competitiveness; attraction and retention of new customers; and, the ability to respond to continued pressure for cost efficiencies.

These business demands have implications for IT. CIOs now need to move quickly to:  increase speed and agility to more rapidly serve the needs of the business; mitigate risk; and, reduce overall IT costs.

Tell us about the consumerisation of IT and its impact on the IS organisations of today, as you see it with your customers.
The consumerisation of IT is the phenomenon where the boundaries between work and home or personal devices have blurred. This trend presents both opportunities and challenges.

It opens opportunities for organisations in the private and public to communicate with customers, partners, and constituents with consumer-class technologies and services. This improves customer reach, engagement and intimacy. It also expands how employees work and collaborate internally. In today’s global marketplace, that is important.

On the other hand, it creates a new set of challenges to existing enterprise IT security, management, and automation strategies. For example, consumers are increasingly sharing and storing sensitive personal information in the cloud. More than half are sharing information that can be used to steal their online identity or compromise their physical safety.

Enterprises have to make sure they support the new technologies while they follow established data protection, disaster recovery, security, and service-level guidelines and handle monitoring and quality of service issues.

Security—that's always a catch up game, isn't it? What is to be done?
New trends such as cloud computing are typically viewed as less secure because of the perceived loss of control with cloud services. However, cloud security is really a shared duty—it’s the responsibility of the cloud provider and the cloud user.

One way to improve data security in today’s world of cloud and the highly connected digital natives who use social networking tools for a large amount of communication is to link identities and roles to information use policies. This practice, called content-aware identity and access management, or IAM, helps protect critical data based on the role of each user.

This next-generation approach to IAM takes it a step further than the traditional IAM function that stops at the point of access. Content-aware IAM helps control users, their access, and what they can do with the information they access based on their identity or role.

With that level of control implemented, data can be better protected no matter what the IT environment – traditional, virtualised or cloud.

What are the major challenges that you see the typical CIO not being able to overcome currently?
Circumstances which may be out of a CIO’s control include the maturity or availability of technology infrastructure in certain countries, legislation which may prevent effective adoption of emerging technologies, and whether CEOs view IT as a cost centre or as a strategic means of growing the business. Each of these circumstances will evolve over time.

What do you see happening that must be addressed today but is or are not seen or appreciated fully by CIOs today for them to respond to?
Cloud computing is making a profound impact on the CIO. The innovation potential the cloud offers will raise IT’s value proposition from an enabler of competitive strategy to a key contributing source of an organisation’s competitive advantage. This change will give CIOs the opportunity to play a more strategic role in executing against corporate goals.

Cloud computing gives CIOs a choice. They can choose from the IT options that span traditional, cloud and hybrid application environments, and the private, public or hybrid cloud alternatives that support them. With this choice, CIOs need to shift focus from serving as an infrastructure owner and operator to that of an IT supply chain manager. This means they must manage service delivery from both internal and external sources, which could include a variety of cloud services.

The new role of the CIO will be to strategically manage an IT supply chain, pulling in resources as needed—everything from complete applications to massive amounts of cloud-based processing capacity and data storage.

Increasingly, the IT department’s role will be less about hands-on technology management and more about bringing together business and IT governance. At the same time, non-technical executives and managers will become more deeply involved in technology.

Cloud uptake in Asia Pacific is gathering pace, with some Asian markets moving faster than developed economies.

In India, for instance, the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, healthcare and education sectors are showing an enormous amount of interest in cloud technology. China, with its large number of mobile phone and Internet users, is already benefiting from cloud computing technology. This is because China’s online gaming industry uses the principle to support a now well-established business model.

However, CIOs in Asia are waiting to see how mature markets, such as the U.S., address security concerns to the satisfaction of client organisations before investing in more cloud technology. What CIOs need to do now is to try to understand all the options in front of them–cloud or otherwise–and see what is best applied to their applications and environments with respect to potential business value.

Talk about the reinvention of CIOs—what does it require and what are its objectives in concrete terms?
The CIOs of today need to be creative, strategic and innovative. In order to make IT part of an organisation’s competitive advantage, the CIO needs to do more than just manage the running of the back office of an organisation and managing data, support functions and corporate systems.

The CIO’s role will be less about hands-on technology management and more about bringing together business and IT governance. At the same time, non-technical executives and managers will become more deeply involved in technology.

For CIOs to prepare for the changing role, they must:-

* Stay current with emerging technologies: CIOs today are expected to be strategic leaders that reshape business processes and strategies. In order for that to happen, CIOs need to stay current with new emerging technologies that will help drive innovation and have positive impact on the organisation.

* Be innovative: CIOs need to analyse business priorities for the coming generation and understand the needs of CEOs and other business leaders who are pushing for growth. From there, CIOs will be able to determine the required level of strategic IT support and create an overall strategy and IT architecture that will fulfill those needs.

* Bridge generation gaps: having people skills are vital to today's CIO. As the baby boomers get ready to retire, the CIOs will have to figure out a way to create a smooth transition for knowledge transfer from that generation to the emerging generation C—people who grew up in a connected and collaborative environment and whose use of technology may be different from those of their predecessors.

What's your forecast for the state of the CIO in the next 12-24 months?
The transition to the dynamic IT supply chain could take CIOs on several paths depending on their IT portfolio, industry and even country. The cloud promises a profound change but even a revolution can take a long time with a company that is not committed to this transition.

The mindset of the organisation and its approach towards embracing new models, such as cloud computing, is creating a paradigm shift in the way IT organisations are run.

At the end of the day, if the CIO understands the benefits that the cloud can bring to the organisation and to his or her own position, the CIO will then advance into a more strategic role of a business enabler.


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