CIOs: Give end users what they want

The Doctor's Surgery: Dr Mark Samuels, editor at advisory organisation CIO Connect, examines the future role of the IT leader in this new monthly column.

You have to feel for the CIO. The IT department, which has never been the most popular part of the business, is now in danger of becoming a direct enemy to the ever-powerful end-user.

Get those policies right and, rather than being an enemy, the CIO can establish a flexible route towards a brighter, digital future.

The customary role of the technology team is to provide IT resources to help people complete their jobs. Most of the time, employees across the business complain the kit they have is too old, too slow and too unreliable.

The traditional role of the tech team has changed recently, as broadband speeds have increased and innovative IT companies are starting to create flexible options relating to on-demand technology and mobile devices.

CIOs should be helping the business to use the digital innovation emerging from cool IT vendors. But the technology team is in danger of being sidelined as line-of-business executives buy IT on-demand.

The traditional CIO and vendor relationship is also under threat. Long-standing concerns, like licensing and vendor lock-in, are being replaced by concerns over a vendor's ability to keep pace with change.

Everything, in short, is moving quickly. Internal IT teams are struggling to keep pace with change, as are the technology suppliers that have traditionally helped CIOs develop an enterprise architecture.

So how can CIOs deliver value to the business in an era of fast-paced change? Most crucially, technology chiefs need to recognise that supply is an old school skill. Demand will be the crucial factor for the successful IT leader of the future.

Vendors have to adapt to this fast-changing world too and CIOs need to pick suppliers based on their ability to offer flexibility, not on their ability to deliver a set technical approach.

The key to delivering value in this flexible world is end-user demand. Employees know what they want, and they want the CIO to make it happen.

IT leaders must establish the policies that allow users to make the most of the cool technologies they demand. Get those policies right and, rather than being an enemy, the CIO can establish a flexible route towards a brighter, digital future.

Mark Samuels
Freelance journalist

Mark Samuels is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. For the past two decades, he has produced extensive work on subjects such as the adoption of technology by C-suite executives.

At ITPro, Mark has provided long-form content on C-suite strategy, particularly relating to chief information officers (CIOs), as well as digital transformation case studies, and explainers on cloud computing architecture.

Mark has written for publications including Computing, The Guardian, ZDNet, TechRepublic, Times Higher Education, and CIONET. 

Before his career in journalism, Mark achieved a BA in geography and MSc in World Space Economy at the University of Birmingham, as well as a PhD in economic geography at the University of Sheffield.