CIO strategy: Be relevant or die

CIO strategy: Be relevant or die

Summary: Cloud, social, and mobile computing have transformed the technology landscape. Here are tips to help you remain relevant in these changing times.

CIO and IT strategy Be relevant or die
Photo credit: Michael Krigsman

Relevancy is the CIO’s primary challenge in a world where cloud, social, and mobile empower users like never before.


In many organizations, management and lines of business see IT as a public utility tasked with providing reliable infrastructure. This view of IT, based on the concept of “feeds and speeds,” is archaic and outdated, but still prevalent in many companies and industries.

Relevancy begins when a CIO links IT to the core goals of the organization, which will vary by industry. In higher education, for example, key business issues include student recruitment and retention, fundraising, and classroom innovation. We can even say that relevancy is a function of the way IT supports an organization’s key goals. Help an educational institution retain students, and you become relevant; drive resource efficiency in a manufacturing operation and you are relevant.

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Since the drivers are straightforward, achieving relevancy should be easy. However, being relevant requires IT to become open and transparent, shifting away from an insular and unresponsive relationship with users. For many IT shops, making that transition is hard because historical, cultural, technical, and organizational conditions drive IT toward commoditization, the antithesis of relevancy.

IT can overcome these obstacles by learning to engage, listen, and transform itself.

In this video Phil Komarny, CIO of Seton Hill University, shares his experience and advice for addressing issues around relevancy and value for IT. Phil is one of the innovative CIOs featured in my study of innovation in higher education; hearing him speak is worth your time: 

Topics: Social Enterprise, CXO, Cloud, Enterprise Software, IT Priorities

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  • Great headline, too bad it's wrong.

    "Be relevant or die"

    Great headline.

    Too bad it's wrong.

    Being irrelevant in the eyes of the news media like ZDNet doesn't mean you suddenly become unprofitable or bankrupt.

    IBM's been pretty irrelevant, but they are still in business. They still turn a profit.
  • IBM is irrelevant??

    It's easy to make comments like that, but in reality IBM is one of the most important technology companies on the planet. CIOs and IT face a crossroads: either increase value by listening and collaborating with the business, or become devalued as an infrastructure provider.
  • Great interview

    Post: "Be relevant or die" may also be the challenge facing colleges and universities in the long run, as pressure builds on higher ed to become more affordable, accessible, relevant to the job market, etc. Better delivery through technology is likely to be a big part of any successful response to those pressures, and I don't see how institutions rise to the challenge without the kind of transformation of IT that Mr. Komarny is advocating. How can IT be a catalyst for change in higher education? I don't know if any of your conversation touched on that, but I'd be interested to hear it if so.
    Marlon Feld, WebINTENSIVE Software
    • So we can pimp our company names in our


      I usually keep a list of names... To avoid.

      But the market dictates everything - even that which led to crushing college costs (and, arguably, the lower level of quality they put out - especially for online classes...)

      The market cannot fix what it caused
  • Produce or perish

    Makes you wonder if we are truly free?