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%)

Closing Statements

CIOs will bridge the gap

Sharyn Leaver

With the age of the customer upon us, technology-fueled, customer-led disruption will continue to arrive unexpectedly at the doorstep of nearly every organization. Customers expect everything faster, better, cheaper, and at a higher degree of service.

CIOs will be instrumental in bridging that gap — but, their role will look much different than it does currently. Today, just 10 percent of CIOs are responsible for owning and driving digital strategy, innovation, and ultimately, disruption. By 2018, Forrester predicts that number will rise to 20 percent and another 50 percent of CIOs will co-own business outcomes that are tied to disruptive innovation and strategy.

To make that shift, successful CIOs will reshape the role they personally play in business and the role that technology management plays in building customer value. How? By driving a culture of customer obsession within their organizations, identifying and implementing innovations that drive customer engagement, and relentlessly working to create agility into their enterprises.

Organizations will look to new leaders

Dion Hinchcliffe

There's little question today that the CIO role is in the process of shifting and being re-imagined: A strong and visionary technology leader is needed to guide our businesses into the future. However, given the stance for the average CIO today on operational issues and mission-critical applications, the concern is that the role will always hamper the organization as enterprises increasingly centralize around digital business.

For now, the tactical side seems to be winning as the role is envisioned today. Other day-to-day issues crowd the plate of the CIO,too. A concordance of brand new concerns is crowding IT leaders' agendas as well. These range from rising public worries over data control and transparency, a raft of emerging policy and regulation issues related to issues such as national health care reform, to the ever-present need to update legacy IT portfolios while meeting a growing set of security threats.

These distractions are too much for one top executive to deal with and help sink the CIO role as the strategic technical leader of the typical company. With technology and business becoming ever more intertwined, many organizations will look to new leaders to bring their businesses forward into today's deeply digital, mobile, social, cloud-based, and data-driven marketplace.

CIOs: Disrupters or disrupted?

Larry Dignan

Each of our debaters delivered fascinating insights into the historic transformation facing the CIO's role. A key difference between Sharyn and Dion is how each views the CIO's relationship to the disruptive forces at play in today's business world. Sharyn talks of "disruptive CIOs becoming agents of change" while Dion describes "external forces disrupting the role of the CIO."
So, will CIOs be the disrupted -- or the disrupters? 
Sharyn makes a convincing case that the CIO's role is more important and relevant than ever before. I have to go with the crowd on this one: Sharyn gets the win.


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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