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Cloud and the new CIO

How cloud is changing the role of the CIO

Cloud changes everything, and never more so than the role of the CIO, as the recently-released State of the CIO 2017 report[1] reveals.

As the report points out, CIOs still perform the delicate balancing act "between crafting technology strategy and driving business innovation while overseeing routine IT functional tasks such as cost control, vendor negotiation, crisis management, and operational improvements."

However, although not explicitly stated, it is implicit that cloud services will continue to play a large part in making the CIO more efficient. For example, cloud computing is now the default way for enterprises to deliver new services, whether or not they are officially sanctioned by and acquired through the IT department. This plays to the LOB manager's need to 'just get things done' because convenience and speed will - as so many commentators have already pointed out - always trump security and process. We'll return to this point a bit later.

CIOs in transition

However, the report finds that CIOs anticipate spending far less time on functional matters as they transition towards becoming enablers of transformation and adopting more strategic roles.

"CIOs are happily embracing their evolution from order taker and implementer to strategist and business enabler," says the report. There is a reason behind this: CIOs perceive it as being more rewarding - not just in terms of job satisfaction but also remuneration.

In practice, this means spending more time with LOB managers and with C-level executives, and less time overseeing operational matters. The enabler for this transition is the cloud. Cloud computing also brings standardisation of functions and services, which in turn enables automation. And automation releases more time.

Even security, often the hardest function to automate, is more susceptible to automation in the cloud, although the report finds that security has now: "morphed from a stand-alone set of workflows and practices into a strategic initiative." In other words, security is increasingly tightly integrated with IT strategy.

So outsourcing infrastructure maintenance and operations to the cloud frees up time, and so allows CIOs to focus more on the strategic needs of the business.

Shadows in the cloud

This move towards a strategic role for the CIO has been trumpeted for years but remains tough to implement. It will, in the longer term, help to reduce the reliance of LOB managers on shadow IT, which remains a big issue: one report found that up to 20 times more rogue cloud applications were running than the CIO estimated.

LOB managers say they just want to get things done, and that IT is an obstacle. This yawning gap between the expectations and perceptions of IT's role as seen by CIOs and LOB managers is also highlighted in the State of the CIO report[2].

So changing those perceptions is the way to reduce the prevalence of shadow IT, which will beyond question benefit the enterprise: security will be improved, costs contained, and efficiencies enhanced. Establishing processes that help to bridge that gap between IT and LOB units is likely to be critical in order to demonstrate the strategic and transformational role that IT can play.

The cloud is the ground on which this process being fought. For the future, we can expect to see a wider, more strategic role for the CIO as they increasingly report to the CEO - this being a consequence of the increasing reliance by enterprises on IT in general and cloud in particular. Far from being a peripheral function, cloud computing moves towards the centre of the enterprise - along with the CIO whose role is to convert those services into strategic assets.

[1] IDG: State of the CIO 2017.

[2] ibid.

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