The CIO of the future
Communicating what IT can (or can’t) do is, unfortunately, not easy given CIOs don’t always have access to the board, let alone sit at the table.
It is imperative to articulate clearly the value you bring and how it can improve the bottom line
But APN News & Media group CIO, Tim Catley, rejects any notion that this is a barrier to effectiveness. Where IT is integral to the nature of the business, in all probability the CIO sits on the board, he says, citing eBay as an example.
“If your role is more operational, it is unlikely you would have such representation,” he says.
“It all depends on the role IT plays — where the business is focused, the agenda and where IT sits in relation to that agenda.
“However, just because you don’t sit on the board doesn’t mean you can’t be effective in your role. I think we sometimes spend too much time worrying about whether we’re on the board or not, whether we report directly to the CEO or not, and whether we can influence and be relevant.
“Businesses today are more dependent on IT than they were even just 10 or 15 years ago. Boards are increasingly aware of this, especially younger board members who are savvy about technology and recognise things such as this as a big issue.”
IT's future will be highly dependent on the operation, its size and whether it is a support function or plays a customer-facing role, he says.
“It also depends on what happens with emerging technologies such as Cloud and issues such as off-shoring. Suffice to say that just as the CFO role differs in every organisation, depending on what it does, exactly the same will happen with CIOs.
"If you talk to 10 different CFOs they will give you 10 different job descriptions. The same will be true of CIOs.”
Patey agrees that change is happening, and is upbeat about it.
“Practically every job in the developed world interacts in some way with IT,” he says.
“Although it has become the lifeblood of the organisation — the platform that drives growth and innovation — in some ways we haven’t moved up the tree in the same way that finance and HR have. Then again, in comparison to other professions, IT has only been around for a relatively short time and I think the development cycle of the discipline will accelerate.”
Like Catley, he believes the emergence of Cloud computing will likely influence the trend.
“Some think Cloud is moving us away from reliance on in-house ICT provision,” he says.
“But it will become a key skill to be able to effectively draw on externally provided services such as Cloud and understand how they can benefit an organisation.”
Globalisation will also play a key role.
“Where once a company with offices in different parts of the world might not have acted as a totally synergistic unit, it is rapidly changing. Geographic barriers are degrading and will continue to do so at pace. New ways of doing things are developing overnight, and with them new opportunities.
"An ability to join the dots between business needs and technology solutions is going to become even more of a key skill for organisations, which will in turn increase the need for the CIO-type role to be at the executive leadership table.”