Tech jobs: CIOs look safe, IT managers face chop, chief digital officer is the next big thing

Tech jobs: CIOs look safe, IT managers face chop, chief digital officer is the next big thing

Summary: Organisations are changing what they think they want from technology and innovation, and that shift will have a major impact on IT management.


Firms are planning to crank up the hiring of chief digital officers and chief data officers, but it won't necessarily be at the expense of CIOs. In fact, it is IT middle management who look more likely to lose out.

Some 19 percent of business leaders expect to recruit a chief digital officer by 2014, while 17 percent foresee a chief data officer appointment, according to a study by Gartner.

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Many CIOs moving beyond IT: Survey

Many CIOs moving beyond IT: Survey

Gartner's survey of 2,000 CIOs has found less emphasis on systems, more on digital business initiatives.

When CEOs and business leaders of large organisations worldwide were quizzed about the roles they expect to have in two years, the CIO position emerges as static. But there is significant growth in innovator and digital leader posts and a decline in the IT management tier.

"Overall, it's a progressive move towards more technology-driven leadership in total," said Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner fellow.

"But if you don't have CIO as a title — you were always wondering why they wouldn't make you CIO because they weren't recognising you as a senior leader — those are the people who are more at risk," he said.

"What we see here is a market exploring possibilities. It's breaking ground by trying to create new leader names and types to solve problems and it's an exploration that's going on across different boards from different companies."

The study also found the CEOs and senior executives, who work for organisations with annual revenues of $250m or more, are planning to increase IT investments this year, by a ratio of more than four to one.

Raskino said that finding is positive and reflects a mood that favours digital innovation, even though there is a huge variation in what that concept actually represents to different businesses and industries.

"Digital can vary quite a lot — just like e-business did a decade or a decade and a half ago," he said.

Digital innovation in the ascendancy

Raskino said the research showed that new roles perceived as involving digital innovation are clearly in the ascendancy, while the IT management level below CIO will be in decline.

"On the other side of the CIO line are the people just one step back from that — IT directors, heads of IT," he said.

"Where you have people who don't carry the CIO title or something very similar, their recognition in the enterprise has been as the guy who manages the datacentres and the apps but not reporting at executive level — it's those people there'll be fewer of."

The change is highly significant and reflects a growing emphasis on digital innovation, according to Raskino.

"This is the first time we are seeing a shift in emphasis since the 1998 sort of era in general. We've got a reshaping of what technology leadership looks like going on here," he said.

Chief digital officer specifications

Raskino said headhunters are being given specifications for chief digital officers as new separate posts in addition to the CIO role.

"But they are also finding that when they're being given a CIO specification, it includes a lot of digital skills. So some companies might [hire] a chief digital officer. Others might say, 'My next CIO replacement is going to be much more digital. We'll reshape the role'," he said.

Chief digital officers tend to appear more in consumer-facing industries, according to Raskino, while heads of innovation are more often found in business-to-business environments.

"Chief data officer comes from a different provenance really. For those companies where data is a really important asset and that asset has now crossed the line where it's going out of control because it's just so complex. Those are the first people to recruit chief data officers," he said

"And usually the first reason to do it is to get the asset under control and later on to start exploiting the asset more effectively. That's typically banks and insurance companies at the moment."

Topics: CXO, Big Data, Cloud, Data Management, IT Employment

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  • CDO On the Rise

    I recently read Gartner's series on the maturation of the CDO role. Thank you for noting that the CDO role likely won't usurp the CIO's role, but rather work with the CIO.
  • Sloppy language results in, or from, sloppy logic.

    "My next CIO replacement is going to be much more digital." Seriously? Was your last CIO analog?

    When I hear statements like this I cringe. If you hire a "CDO" without understanding what "digital" actually means, or think a new CIO should be "more digital", you probably shouldn't be in a position to hire anyone. Let's add a Chief Digital Officer AND a Chief Data Officer. You can never have too many Chiefs. Those numbers (projected hires) are great for consultants and analysts, but if they are real, we're in for some very big disappointments in the boardroom soon.
    • Invent a Role - Job Done!

      I agree! Inventing titles and roles sounds like progress but what will these people do? What did CIO's do about data in the past. They were after all INFORMATION officers. Weren't CIO"s supposed to: "get the asset under control and later on to start exploiting the asset more effectively."?

      What will these new C's do? Data needs management. Practitioners who can roll up their sleeves and address the challanges as a result of a lack of data management over the past 30 years and set a new course for the future. What isn't needed are more talking heads.
  • Roles in IT are Changing

    Like the article states above, IT roles are changing. Technology is becoming a huge part of every department which is causing IT to move out to the edge. Leadership is still critical, which is why the CIO title is sticking around. As the IT roles move outward toward the business user, the core technology infrastructure space will be filled with managed service providers, which puts the IT manager position at risk.

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