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Keeping Afloat on a Sea of Change

Keeping Afloat on a Sea of Change

Expect the CIO role to be vastly different in five years time — and be prepared to adapt if you want to keep your job.

As the CIO role evolves beyond technology and computing support to strategy creation and business transformation, CIOs are likely to find themselves prey to a confluence of factors that will shape their role over the next few years. Those who can’t adapt had better start looking for something else to do.

For a sign of what’s coming, consider the critical attributes executive recruiter and former Gartner senior vice president Marianne Broadbent was given recently by a company looking to hire a CIO at a more senior level than the company had had before. Naturally, those attributes included either proven experience in business processes and information technology or in a business leadership executive role in a large, complex multi-divisional organisation — that’s pretty standard for many senior CIO roles these days and for CIOs in organisations where technology is pivotal to business outcomes.

But the organisation also wanted someone who could prove themselves able to provide independent and collaborative thought leadership as a member of the organisation’s most senior executive decision-making/advisory body.

At the same time, another organisation, looking to fill a C-level position reporting directly to the CEO, demanded someone able to innovate through continuous improvement and maximised technology enablement.

In fact, Broadbent says a focus on and understanding of the enabling power of technology has become a typical selection criterion for just about all C-level executives. That means that what used to make the CIO unique — an unrivalled understanding of technology and the way it can transform the organisation — is becoming commonplace. CIOs of the future will need to find other ways to entrench themselves as an essential part of the organisational furniture.

“In most senior executive positions now, there is a requirement and an expectation that the executive will understand and have a good appreciation of how to make technology work for the organisation,” Broadbent says.

“When you look at positions in the retail area now, there are many more supply chain positions, and all those are technology dependent. What that means to the CIO is that there are increasing numbers of executive accountabilities in enabling the development processes that are technology dependent, which puts much greater pressure on the CIOs to have fantastic stakeholder and relationship management responsibilities, but also to have that deep understanding of where the business is going.

“I would say we are seeing the integration of CIOs into executive teams in certain groups of organisations — those where technology is absolutely critical to what the organisation does.”

No-one can predict the future, but that’s never stopped anyone trying before. CIOs, CEOs, ex-CIOs, analysts and other C-level executives have a range of views about how the CIO role will evolve over the next few years, and the things CIOs must do to position themselves for that change. While the trends themselves are fairly apparent — greater complexity, more outsourcing, extensive integration, a closer relationship with the CEO, never-ending demands from the business — no one can be certain how these converging trends will transform the IT department over time.

So we spoke to some switched on and visionary CIOs, other execs and analysts — some from other points on the globe — to get a sense of where they think the role is heading over the next five or so years.

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