Mirrors and crystal balls are both made of glass, but that's where the similarity ends. While mirrors are often handy, they can't do the job of a crystal ball. We'll need the latter to tell us what the CIO's future roles and responsibilities will be.
I've done my share of mulling over the changing role of the CIO. It was nice to hear the thoughts of a far more seasoned industry observer, IT Business Edge contributor Rob Enderle, at this week's Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando.
Enderle is widely quoted in the technology press and with good reason. He founded and leads his own advisory firm, the Enderle Group, which has a client list that reads like a "Who's Who" of technology. Before founding that company, he worked for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Needless to say, Enderle's crystal ball is clearer than mine.
He kicked off the Midmarket CIO Forum with a keynote that looked at the past role of the CIO (and the infrastructures he/she managed) and gave his perspective on the future. In the days of mainframe computing, the CIO was "the king of the castle," said Enderle. That ended with client/server computing and PCs which, more often than not, were installed without CIOs' approval. Somewhat dramatically, he called this period "the death of the CIO." Then came the advent of services, often facilitated by outsourcing, and the CIO became an agent.
Now CIOs must prepare to contend with the cloud. It's shaping up to be more similar to the services era than the mainframe or client/server eras. Like the services era, CIOs will treat line organizations as customers. "The line organizations know what they want. Somebody has to put it together, resell it, package it and make it work," said Enderle.
This has always been a daunting task, but now is even more so with a confusing proliferation of options. Most companies will probably end up with a hodgepodge of internal and external resources. The CIO's challenge will be to make it all work in a way that seems cohesive and seamless to their business colleagues. For those who are successful, Enderle envisions a strategic future: "The CIO as CEO." Those who aren't face a far grimmer outlook: "Obsolete."
CIOs looking for guidance should refer to a three-part strategy suggested by Forrester Research VP and principal analyst James Staten, who spoke at another recent event I attended:
For more details, see my post itSMF Fusion Keynote: Preparing for Industrialization of IT.