Is the role of CIO still relevant?

Moderated by Larry Dignan | November 18, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: There's a battle raging for the soul of IT.

Sharyn Leaver

Sharyn Leaver




Dion Hinchcliffe

Dion Hinchcliffe

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: Yes (73%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

More important than ever

There's no denying the role of the CIO has changed, but Forrester would argue that it is more important than ever before. In the age of the customer, firms need to serve increasingly tech-savvy, connected, and powerful customers. That requires top-notch technology, systems, and processes that help win, serve, and retain those customers. Going forward, this will be the primary role of CIOs.

The CIO job is not about keeping the lights on anymore; in this new world, successful CIOs will work with their business peers to co-create digital customer experiences,products, and services. These disruptive CIOs will become agents of change who arm the business with the data and technologies it needs to meet its customers digital needs anytime, anywhere and disrupting its business model — before others do.

Can all of today's CIOs make this shift? No. But the role of the CIO will absolutely remain essential for the foreseeable future.

Special Report: The Battle for the Soul of IT

On borrowed time

Today's chief information officer is living on borrowed time. While the title of CIO isn't about to disappear anytime soon, the role itself is undergoing a historic transformation. The tension between the CIO's vital twin roles -- as 1) tech innovator and 2) keeper of the infrastructure -- is becoming untenable as IT moves more to the cloud and digital business becomes a top priority. Today's companies increasingly need a tech visionary that leads the business from the front, even while they still desire a safe but otherwise staid hardware and software manager keeping the back office humming and ensuring business continuity.

External forces are disrupting the role of the CIO as well, from cheap outsourcing providers and free app stores to highly competitive new startups that are bringing disruptive new technology and business models to their doorstep. With more and more tech responsibility moving out from the CIO role to business units, the CMO, and the new chief digital officer, the role of CIO is facing real dislocation today.

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  • Time for Line Execs to Pickup IT as a Tool

    It's way past time for line executives in business to pick up IT and use it like any other business tool in their bag of skills.
    Reply 41 Votes I'm for No
  • CIO Relevance?

    I'm not sure that the CIO position was ever relevant. But, if you assume that it was, then it is no longer. It never had the same status as other C-level execs and it shows.
    Reply 34 Votes I'm for No
    • Our CIO is also our Vice-President of IT.

      In a research-university environment, data is your most valuable asset and it needs to be the responsibility to a high-level executive to see that your data is safe.
      M Wagner
      Reply 26 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Have we been nuked to the stone ages?

    Have we been nuked to the stone ages?

    If not, then who will manage the technology?

    Call it CIO, call it something else - you'll always need somebody to manage the tech as long as technology exists.

    My guess is this debate will ultimately boil down to how you define "relevant." Not that I expect any definition to be reasonable: ZDNet does crazy redefining English words. They've already defined "dead" to be something well beyond any dictionary definition.
    Reply 55 Votes I'm for Yes
    • It's not just about managing the technology. It is about protecting ...

      ... the DATA! As long as the data is still there, the technology to access it can be rebuilt but without the data, your organization's very reason to exist can be lost.
      M Wagner
      Reply 34 Votes I'm Undecided
  • I have to co with Sharyn on this one.

    I work in a university IT department and the sheer volume of data found in an academic environment is absolutely staggering. In addition to vast research datasets, which might be stored almost anywhere on the Internet but for which your CIO is ultimately responsible, student information as well as financial data must be protected and accounted for - particularly in a public institution.

    The large commercial enterprise is no different. There is proprietary data (trade secrets, if you will) which must be protected for commercial reasons as well as vast amounts of customer data.

    The very fact that 75% of organizations which suffer a catastrophic loss of data never recover reminds us of the important of protecting the data. It is a tremendous asset and once lost, so is the trust once imparted on that enterprise by its customer, clients, and its constituents.

    It is important to keep in perspective that a great deal of responsibility falls on the shoulder of your CIO and the position should not be treated lightly.
    M Wagner
    Reply 37 Votes I'm for Yes
  • CIO role obsolete now

    I have seen the damaged brought on by a former CIO [terminated in less than his three yr. contract].
    He was replaced and all IT functions were outsourced to **M.
    The company is now almost bankrupt.
    Reply 34 Votes I'm for No
    • obsolete?

      The outsourced company doesnt have a CIO?
      the positions are just changing of place, the CIOs may be not part of your company now, but the positions are open in the cloud companies, thats evolution not extinction. Does any body knows about a cloud company or even a bank or financial entity without a CIO (or any other related name)?
      Reply 7 Votes I'm Undecided
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same

    Cloud is really outsourcing, which is old as IT. Organisations still need the single client view - a DB history of thier dealings with each of their clients. That DB needs to be accessible, maliable, and secure.

    Other execs don't have the time to sit and do the analysis and thinking, they need a CIO to do it for them. The ones that charge off and go it alone pay the price down the line and the other execs learn thier lesson.

    All that has changed really is the options available to the CIO are more varied than what they were before. It is even more important now that CIOs engage with thier stakeholders early, when ideas are still a twinkle in thier eye. Offer solutions, not problems.
    Reply 22 Votes I'm for Yes
  • Promotion is in order!

    Flabbergasted that this is even a question in the interwebs era! Every product is connected. Those who eschew modern technology (yes, there are those who still prefer green screens and command lines to graphical wonderland) are doomed to the scrap heap of business history! If anything, CIOs should be made the CEO. They alone have the full scope of knowledge of how a modern business operates. They alone can unleash the full potential of their companies!*

    I'm off to query my rep for a status update on my Microsoft CEO nomination. Laterz!

    * It must be noted that a truly modern, enlightened OS is vital to this end result.
    Reply 27 Votes I'm for No