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The evolving meaning of the 'I' in CIO

The evolving meaning of the 'I' in CIO

As Ginna Raahauge steps into the CIO position at Informatica, she reflects on the changing responsibilities of the CIO.

The average tenure of CIOs has reached 5.8 years, according to CIO's 2015 State of the CIO study, but CIOs are still known for moving around a fair bit. When CIOs transition from one company to another, it's a great time to look into the future, reflect on the past and consider how the CIO's role is changing.

IT industry veteran Ginna Raahauge finds herself in that position now. She took the helm of the IT function at data integration software specialist Informatica as senior vice president and CIO last week after a two-year stint as senior vice president and CIO of WAN optimization specialist Riverbed Technology. Prior to that she served for nearly seven years as vice president of IT at Cisco Systems.

Informatica snapped up Raahauge to help guide the company as it enhances and strengthens its cloud strategy (the company announced the appointment of Jeff Moses, formerly chief operating officer and senior vice president of Customer Engagement and Commerce for SAP in North America and Latin America, as senior vice president of Cloud Sales the very same day). The company is no stranger to the cloud, but it now intends to undertake a major transformation to expand and globalize the Informatica Cloud subscription business, which represents the fastest growth revenue in the company.

[Related: Why CIOs Need to Embrace New Norms of the Hybrid Cloud ]

"The opportunity ahead for Informatica, specifically in the cloud market, is tremendous," Moses said in a statement last week. "Informatica has been a pioneer and visionary in cloud computing for the past decade. Moving forward, my team and I are excited to significantly grow the Informatica Cloud customer base."

While the growth plans will affect everyone in the company, it will fall upon Raahauge's shoulders (and that of her team) to support and enable the new initiatives. Achieving that requires understanding how the CIO's role is changing in this environment.

"The focus on the 'I' in CIO is shifting," Raahauge says. "It's not just about information anymore."

Infrastructure, innovation, integration and intelligence

CIOs now need to juggle four 'I's, she says: infrastructure, innovation, integration and intelligence.

"IT these days really is about how we drive innovation," she says. "We need to decide where we want to be bleeding edge and where we want to be mainstream. Infrastructure is still in there; that's an 'I' we have to keep very close to. The third 'I' is really around integration. We've become integration brokers that need to understand what's happening in the total IT landscape. The last 'I' is really what Informatica has made its name and brand on, and that's intelligence. It's beyond business intelligence; it's even bigger than big data and analytics."

The intelligence component is about bringing together the other three 'I's into a cohesive whole that grants visibility into the business and its IT.

"In looking at companies that were very attractive to me, it was about this convergence that's happening around intelligence," she says. "Things like understanding who's accessing what at any given time and at what mobility layer."

Even as the role is shifting, CIOs -- or anyone in a technical role for that matter -- need to keep in mind that the new responsibilities are additive to the infrastructure maintenance and support that have always been part of the IT function.

"You have to have a clear architectural view and strategy," she says. "You need to key to a longer-term decision point, while keeping it flexible enough that you can pick up the new technologies that are emerging so fast. It's about the balance of looking at both infrastructure and application architecture all the way out to user experience."

The search for tech talent

Beyond the technology, CIOs need to keep an eye on people if they're to survive and thrive in the shifting IT landscape. That means paying special attention to acquiring and developing talent. While technical depth is good, Raahauge says she values broad skills that allow IT professionals to be cross-functional more and more each day. This is fueled by today's focus on integration and innovation: someone who has a handle on infrastructure, applications and business requirements is more likely to come up with an innovative idea that bridges the three than a person who's deep in only one of those areas.

"I value that you can do the technical configuration or a router, but what I value more is becoming more predictive and hypothetical in your thinking," Raahauge says. "Those are the skills of the future that I think are going to be really important and highly rewarded."

"Talent is the biggest thing," she adds. "It comes down to creating a culture of innovation internally and working to unlock people's potential. It's also going a little outside of the norm looking for really strong business-minded people that might want to do a rotation."

That's something she picked up in her years at Cisco, where cross-functional rotations were the norm.

"Watching the model work inside a company like Cisco was pretty impressive," she says.

As an added benefit, she notes that such rotations work especially well for millennials.

"Millennials are much more adept at picking up and being cross-functional," she says. "They're more adept at being broad versus specific. If you look at the history of IT, you were much more rewarded at being the expert and going very deep. You still will need the depth in certain areas, but I think where we're seeing acceleration is in learning how to be broad so you can be more fungible."

"You have to keep it fresh for them," she adds. "I've tried to stay very close to the younger generation. They're not going to do a role for very many years at a time. They want diversity in learning and new experiences."

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