When it comes to IS management, life isn't as simple as it once was. In recent years, as IT use has grown more widespread and entrenched, permeating almost every aspect of every enterprise, the CIO's job has become increasingly sophisticated and complex. Add to that the ever more critical role IS plays in setting corporate strategy and keeping an eye on emerging technologies, and you've got a job that in many cases has grown far too large for a lone executive. The growing strategic role of IS has prompted many companies to hire CIOs more experienced in business or management than in hardware, applications or networking. Now some of those organisations are bringing in one or more senior technology managers to handle architecture, infrastructure and day-to-day operations. Typically, the top technology manager reports to the chief information executive.
So here's the big ask as we rapidly approach the turn of the century: Is the CIO role changing? In a word: yes. That's because information systems is a historic accident. It resulted from a set of immature technologies that users could not use on their own, and so they required an intermediary. But in today's world, no one wants intermediaries; they want to do it themselves.
Today, a user describes to IS what they want with the hope that it'll get done for them.
The advent of the Internet and its ubiquitous appeal has driven much of this change: Internet users -- including executives -- with little IT experience are learning to retrieve information or produce their own graphic home pages on the Web. People who get on the Internet haven't a clue how it works, and they don't care. They get on and navigate without much help. Yet somebody created the architecture and the technologies and standards. There will be an important role for an information-infrastructure officer at the turn of century, someone to do the master planning and creation of an infrastructure that allows users to do what they want for themselves. For that reason, technology-oriented IS executives are likely to continue moving along the same path, while those straddling the business and IS functions are likely to see their job responsibilities change dramatically in the future. One way that could happen would be for CIOs to fully accept the mantle of "information" officer.
Businesses will always need strategists with an information perspective.
It's no longer enough for companies to know how to produce and manipulate data.
To retain a competitive advantage, companies must be able to distinguish data from information and know how to determine information's value. IS executives -- by any name -- who enable that task will be providing critical value to their organisations.
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