The future CIO is not an engineer.

World has changed, IT should change.

World has changed, IT should change.

I believe the world has changed, forever.
CIO and IT leaders need to re-align to this change so to further prove their value in the future.
As a result the IT department is increasingly attracting business profiles who serve as an intermediary between information technology and business processes.
Next to that, the rise of social media and the so-called consumerization of IT spurs new communication across business units, resulting in a ‘flat’ organization. It’s exactly here that IT can prove its value.
The CIO needs to be a true leader. He must think strategically and have impact on the company’s decisions. To fully realize this, IT must look for the human side again – both in the IT organization itself and in the IT systems. Hence our bold statement “the future CIO is not an engineer”.

Change because IT changed

Until recently IT innovation merely took place within the business spheres. Nowadays, we witness the opposite: IT innovation moved into consumer domain. One can firmly state that companies like Apple and Google develop smart services and devices for the consumer first.

It should not come as a surprise that those services and devices are increasingly entering the corporate world. What’s even more: the new generation of knowledge workers is expecting the same ease in their professional spheres. Unfortunately many companies aren’t deploying similar tools. In my view they aren’t doing it because of their attitude. They believe bringing in those solutions isn’t very secure. This attitude needs to change.

From personal to personalized computing

We could describe loads of technological innovation that contributed to this shift (multi-core processors, lithium-ion batteries, development in “flash memories”, …) but the most important aspect is that it transformed the way many people experience computing. The PC may have been personal, a smartphone or tablet is almost intimate and you can take it almost anywhere. The PC is indeed personal but nowhere near as customizable as the smartphone or tablet. The way Apple marketed these devices has only enforced the notion of technology as something personal.

Cloud computing to drive mobile computing

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

For much of the personal-computing era, the content that people needed for work or entertainment had to be stored on the PC’s hard disks or on external hard drives and corporate servers. Today data and content more and more reside in the “Cloud”: large server infrastructures, often run by Google or Amazon, where huge amounts of data are stored for retrieval from almost anywhere in the world.

The rise of the cloud has also created an explosion of other consumer-focussed web services. These include big social networks such as Facebook and FourSquare. These services enforce the use of cloud instead of hard disk drive.

Other small companies are also placing powerful tech tools in people’s hands. Dropbox (or the Belgian equivalent of Filip Tack, Nomadesk) lets users upload assets via an easy-to-use interface and then retrieve them from many different devices.

The app way of life

Mobile computing relies heavily on apps. But apps are nothing more than chunks of software that get things done. However, the impact cannot be underestimated. It turned people into creatures who do not longer want to wait upon a PC hard disk that reacts to the request. Apps are simple, cheap and give instant gratification. Something that’s not that easy on PC, especially when dealing with legacy software solutions within corporate environments.

Personal Technology at Work

We are about to see a new generation (Gen Y) entering the work space. You’re about to recruit from a generation whose expectations of technology have been profoundly shaped by Facebook, mobile apps and other innovations (like cloud storage). But do not understand this wrongly. It’s not only the new generation of digital natives who are horrified by the corporate IT systems. The rapid spread of tablets and smartphones, and the attraction of social networks and other online tools such as Twitter, mean that people of all ages have grown accustomed to having powerful yet easy-to-use technologies at their fingertips. Many of them want the same stuff at work too.

But that’s not everything. There’s a change in society as well. The change of gradually blurring lines between private and business lives, which means that people rely on technology much more to allow them to work or play anywhere at any time.

Personal Technology at Work

Personal Technology at Work

Do not underestimate the impact of personal technologies at work

Studies point out that a lot of IT departments underestimate how much employees are using their own technology, including social networks and other web services for work. Internal tech teams are often accused of falsely using the “security” concern to justify tight control about which devices workers may and may not use.

CIO and IT need re-alignment

Historically many IT departments have treated people as tech stupid who should do what they are told by the engineers. Now however IT departments are facing a challenge to their authority. Much of what workers are demanding is the right to use their own smartphones and tablets for work, to mix business and personal data on them and to personalize them with their own apps. This frankly is the anathema to IT departments running digital dictatorship.

Rather than a few geeky people bringing in technology, today it’s a full army of employees. Left undetected, their DIY efforts could cause sensitive corporate data to leak and open digital doors to hackers. However, this treat seems exaggerated. Verizon published a study in 2010 that concluded that most of the corporate data breaches were due to direct attacks on corporate servers, not to mobile devices.

The best policy for CIO’s is consequently allowing these devices but to make sure there’s reasonable security on it. Pretending it’s not there would be really stupid.

The new role of CIO and IT department?

Not so long ago many internal tech teams focused on installing gigantic software systems to handle business processes like accounting or human resources. Most of these are now in place, though they require maintenance. This means IT now has more time to be a partner supporting business divisions. Enabling workers to use the gadgets that they consider best for their job is part of this strategic realignment. Wise companies are not just embracing the consumerization of IT. They are also turning innovations from personal technology to their advantage.

The CIO needs to be a true leader. He must think strategically and have impact on the company’s decisions. To fully realize this, IT must look for the human side again – both in the IT organization itself and in the IT systems. Hence our bold statement “the future CIO is not an engineer”.

6 Responses to The future CIO is not an engineer.

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