CIOs must adapt to digital challenges or face extinction

CIOs need to face up to the challenges of the digital world, or risk other departments encroaching on their territory in the future.

That's according to panellists at Civica's Annual Conference in Manchester yesterday, who claimed CIOs need to do more to ready themselves and their organisations for future IT trends.

In a session entitled "The Changing Role of the CIO", Dylan Roberts, the CIO of Leeds City Council told delegates CIOs traditionally focused almost exclusively on how to make organisational efficiencies through things like application rationalisation, automated processes and website management.

However, they must now consider the role the digital consumer - driven by mobility and apps - and social networking have to play in their organisation too.

Those who embrace this change will be successful and retain their position as their organisation's technology leader.

"We all, clearly, need to change and think about the role we want to play and what we need to do in the next decade," said Roberts.

"There are three potential roles...for the CIO. There's the internal operator role, which is focused internally...[working on] availability, keeping the lights on and all of that. There's the business enabler of the 2000s, which is about automated processes...And there's also, which gives the opportunity to do some new innovative things across the [organisation]."

And IT needs to cover all those bases, he added.

Brinley Platts, Roberts' co-panellist and chairman of CIO Development, agreed, although he identified five colliding trends affecting the role of the CIO big data, cloud, social, mobile, and consumerisation.

Platts argued if CIOs do not manage to keep on top of these trends, they risk being usurped in the organisation by the heads of other business divisions, particularly marketing.

"In this...dash for digital...there's a strong possibility that some of those people are going to be given the responsibility for digital across the business," said Platts.

"We think probably, in most cases, that might turn out to be a really bad idea...[and] three or four years down the road IT will be asked to come and sweep up the mess and integrate things properly and re-introduce policy [etc]".

In order to win this battle of the business departments', Platts and Roberts said training is key.

"The sad truth is, most people working in corporate IT environments at the moment do not have good exposure and good opportunities to learn about these things," said Platts.

"[But] they are there and I would recommend that you do go and seek them out...because this is going to be your future. If you have an ambition to become a CIO or a head of IT, you need to be skilled and get the experience and drive to win that battle," he concluded.

Jane McCallion
Managing Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Managing Editor, specializing in data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Managing Editor, she held the role of Deputy Editor and, prior to that, Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialize in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.