Monday’s Musings: Next Generation CIO’s Face 11 Skill Shifts In A Disruptive World

Published on January 18, 2010 by R "Ray" Wang

The Era Of CIO Dictatorships Ends With 2009

Less than 5 years ago, the mighty CIO controlled his or her organization’s destiny by shepherding multi-million dollar projects and ruling with a fist. Business leaders had to pay homage to the IT team and they hated it.  The economic crisis, advent of the cloud and SaaS, and the massive number of IT failures have rapidly changed the role of the CIO.  Saddled with the burden of maintaining legacy projects and faced with a shortage in budget and resources, businesses now move around the IT team as they must meet a flurry of business requirements.  CIO’s have lost a lot of control in guiding how technology is used in the enterprise because the world of consumer tech has out innovated enterprise class technologies.

CIO’s And Their Organizations Challenged By The Pace Of Change In The 2010’s

Similar to this past decade, organizations will face massive amounts of change in the next decade.  While change is nothing new to CIO’s and their organizations, the velocity of change has increased – to a point where the rate of obsolescence outpaces the rate of change.  Conversations with over 200 CIO’s this year reveal an anxiety in remaining nimble, cutting costs, and just keeping up with change.  CIO’s must rapidly respond to disruptive forces in the market, workforce dynamics, business models, and pace of technology adoption (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.  Four areas of change responsible for major disruptions in today’s organizations

(Source: R Wang & Insider Associates, LLC)

The Bottom Line – The CIO Role Shifts To Match Next Gen Enterprise Requirements

What’s the role of the CIO in this next gen enterprise?  Well, next gen CIO’s must help organizations navigate complexity while realizing the benefits of a solid business technology strategy.   While the immediate focus may be on hot topics such as security and risk, third party maintenance, cloud and SaaS, and email replacement and unified communications, there are significant transformations across 11 broader skill sets (see Figure 2.)  Next Gen CIO’s must begin the process of transforming themselves and organizations in 2010 to meet the demands of the decade, anticipating the disruptive business models, technologies, and processes to come.

Figure 2. Eleven Skill Shifts For The Next Gen CIO

(Source: R Wang & Insider Associates, LLC)

In This Series

Your POV

What skill shifts are you seeing in your work as a CIO?  Do these shifts resonate? Do you have a different point of view? Please post or send on to rwang0 at gmail dot com or r at softwareinsider dot org and we’ll keep your anonymity.

Copyright © 2010 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.

  • Ray

    This was a really compelling read. I look forward to reading this series.

    I have spoken with a few people about the death of the term “Information Technology” and its eventual replacement, “Business Technology.” With so many changes taking place, I agree that it’s high time for CIOs to either adapt or perish.


  • Ray: terrific post – three comments on the skill shifts for next gen CIO:

    1. I believe that CIOs are now more than ever being asked to shift their focus from internal customers to external customers – specifically, helping to “technology enable” customer contact strategies around call centers, mobile, social, B2B partnerships, etc. in order to help turbo-charge growth. The CIO skill (in some instances, not all) is morphing from “employee focused” to “customer focused” for the next Gen CIO.

    2. I’d propose that the security skill be abstracted into a broader focus on corporate risk – in my experience, the discussions today with executive teams focuses more on risk than on discrete security concerns. Business leaders are tired of being beaten over the head with (and funding) security projects. If the investment can help to manage or reduce business risk, then the discussion can move forward and be balanced against other risk-based initiatives, otherwise, if it is simply another “security” project, it does not stand a chance.

    3. Finally, it will be interesting to see how these trends impact well entrenched, process-centric frameworks like ITIL – given a shift towards speed, individual decision making and “disruptive” business processes as you mention, will these frameworks become irrelevant over time, or will they also adapt? Not sure, but will be interesting to see what happens, as lots of companies have significant amounts of time and money invested in these frameworks.

    Look forward to the next post in the series.

  • Ray, great insight, as always. I would add that CIOs must lead by point of view and a focus on the critical few rather than policies and diluting their focus across the overwhelming many. Since all of your points are much easier said than done, and growing next gen CIOs is every HR exec’s challenge (among many others), where/to whom do we look for candidates and how do we develop/incent/mentor/etc. them?

  • Glenn, as usuall great points. Next post is about characteristics for the future cio. On point 1 – app strategy is to stabilize core app suite, augment with SaaS till something better comes along or the mega vendors have SaaS suites. Point 2 – short answer yes. procured through the cloud and built in the cloud from in-house will both occur.

  • Ray, I agree with most of the sentiment of the post, but a few comments. On the highest level I think that your 11 attributes are more aligned with the mode of doing business and IT strategies rather than characteristics and specific skill sets that a future CIO will need to have in order to be successful. Perhaps that’s a separate post, but will require better business acumen than technical and comfort with orchestration rather than a tight command and control mindset.

    But two things in your list that I’m rather curious about are:

    1. Move away from mega-suites to best of breed. Given that the mega-vendors haven’t completely embraced SaaS yet, I get that perhaps it will drive a move to best of breed SaaS providers, but that in an of itself is a relative term. I’m not sure that you can make the case that certain SaaS-based apps would win a best of breed comparison against existing on-premise apps, but that’s a separate discussion. However, doesn’t this recreate the integration challenges that existed previously which set the stage for the growth of the mega-suites (who did acquire many of the BoB software companies to fill vertical or niche gaps in their solutions)? Or do you think that SOA, BPEL and perhaps integration platforms like Boomi solve the problem adequately. I’m not sure I feel strongly either way, but just asking.

    2. Change in App Development Strategy. I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here. I agree that the advent of Cloud and PaaS will accelerate the trend towards a distributed development organization and perhaps remove the designation between direct employees and outsourced product development partners, but “procured through the cloud” sounds like abandoning internal app development initiatives and push COT-C (Commercial Off The Cloud; although not really important whether SaaS or On Premise) solutions. Is this what you’re driving at?

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