With the rise of cloud and BYOD, what does the future hold for the CIO?

CIO50: There's change ahead for the IT department and the CIO, and embracing it is much wiser than ignoring it.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

CIO is by far the newest job title in the executive circle, and its nature is still evolving. That means there is still an ongoing debate about what the CIO should — and shouldn't — be responsible for.

What is the future of the CIO?

ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic has just published its CIO50 list of the 50 most influential CIOs in the UK and in the build-up to the launch, I've been thinking about the role of the CIO, and how it's likely to shift over the next few years.

Some have argued the rise of the bring your own device trend (BYOD), cloud or virtualisation means the CIO is becoming irrelevant. If the CIO is no longer able to decide what devices staff use to do their jobs thanks to BYOD and has little power over the infrastructure because it's all in the cloud, runs the argument, then what's the point of even having a CIO?

The reality is that the importance of some technologies declines as they are rendered commodities — while other technologies turn into new sources of competitive advantage. (Most CIOs I talk to are only too happy to not have the hassle of speccing out desktops, because that means they can focus on new initiatives, whether that's big data or building the social enterprise.) It's a process that's been going on since the advent of the punch card and one that's unlikely to end soon.

As such, the role of the CIO shouldn't be linked with any particular technologies, but in the use of technology itself to make an organisation more efficient and effective — especially in light of the old axiom that 80 percent of IT spending is on maintenance and just 20 percent on new projects.

Over time (perhaps the next 10 years) it's quite possible that much of that 80 percent will outsourced, offshored or turned over to cloud providers. That's not necessarily a bad thing for the CIO or the IT department — it's just an inevitable aspect of parts of the technology stack becoming more mature.

Technology isn't going to stop being a way that organisations can do things quicker, cheaper and faster, and they will still need experts.

As such, organisations will increasingly rely on the CIO and the team that they lead to evaluate technologies — rather than just maintaining what already exists.

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