The DIminishing role of the CIOIn a previous article titled The Future of IT & the CIO – Redux of the DoDo I pointed to some survey results that should be alarming to most IT professionals and leaders.

The survey, titled The Future of IT (pdf download), basically argues that the role of IT will diminish in the future.  The survey argues that the IT group will move away from a large centralized function and transition into a shared services model with smaller IT teams sprinkled within business units.  The role of the CIO will also change quite dramatically moving from that of Technology leader to that of either leader of a shared services group or a much more transactionally focus role in charge of IT procurement and integration.

Does that mean IT and the role of the CIO is going away?  Like I said in the previous article, no…I don’t think either role is going away completely but I do believe the CIO role and the IT group must change in order to remain relevant in tomorrow’s organization.

The Diminishing Role of IT and the CIO?

The The Future of IT (pdf download) survey is an eye opener if you take the time to read it.  Once you do, then go read the great stuff that Scott Brinker is putting out today…especially his article titled Rise of the Marketing Technologist.

Scott’s been advocating about the need for marketing organizations to own and manage the technology within the marketing group. Scott writes:

As marketers, you’re already responsible for the outcomes based on such technology. The accountability so widely promoted in digital marketing has you in the hot seat for results. It’s only sensible that you should have full control over the means and mechanisms to deliver those results.

You must be the driver of marketing technology, not merely a concerned passenger. But if you don’t have technical depth, who can help you navigate?

Scott argues for a need for a Marketing Chief Technology Officer (CTO) reporting into the Chief Marketing Officer with strategic technology initiatives for the marketing organization as well as acts as the liaison with the IT group and product marketing teams.

Scott writes the following to highlight the role of the Marketing CTO:

….I am suggesting that technology become one of the vertical pillars of the marketing function — with the marketing CTO as its head.

Resources that used to be begged, borrowed, or bought would instead become a native part of the marketing organization.

Pretty powerful argument for the need to have a strong technology leader within the marketing group.  Scott puts together a very (very) compelling argument for why marketing organizations need to be growing a technical skill set to own and manage their own technology initiatives.

Scott’s article is also an extremely good example of how the idea of IT services are changing within organizations.  Business functions are looking for ways to no longer be beholden to the IT group for all technology needs.  Business groups, like marketing, are needing to find ways to be more agile, more flexible and have more ownership in the technology they use.

Why is that?

Some would argue that the IT group has trouble getting things done.    Some might argue that IT isn’t aligned with the business and describes methods and processes to help IT align better while others argue that it isn’t alignment that is the problem…its the ability for the IT group to be agile and synchronized with the organization.

At the end of the day, the CIO role and the IT group are diminishing in many organizations because they haven’t been able to provide what the organization needs.  It’s as simple as that.

Take a look at Scott’s article again….would the idea of a self-contained technology organization within marketing be necessary if IT were delivering what the marketing group needs?  Maybe…maybe not.

I’m 100% behind the idea of the marketing CTO and have even delivered consulting services as a marketing technologist…but I think there’s a lot of room for the CIO to take a leadership role in this area if they can change the direction and values of the IT organization.

What’s next for the IT group and the CIO?

The diminishing role of IT the CIO has been discussed for many years.

Nicholas Carr wrote a post titled Twilight of the CIO in 2007 that discusses the topic. Harvard Business Review had a similar post in 2002 titled Should you fire your CIO? arguing similar points. More recently, Surendra Reddy is rethinking the role of the CIO in the aptly titled Re-thinking: CIO Role in a 21st Century Corporation. In the The Future of IT (pdf download) survey, the future of the IT group and the CIO is definitely highlighted and discussed.

So…what’s next for IT and the CIO?

Continue to focus on doing business the old way and try to own everything around technology and the business will continue to move past you.  Shadow IT will proliferate.

But…what if you take a different approach?   What if you reach out today to the business to deliver the services they need tomorrow, today.  Reach out and recognize the people and processes that are creating Shadow IT within the organization and start making changes to formalize that shadow function into an IT supported function. Mind you…I’m not arguing that you take over the Shadow IT function…just provide support.

Instead of holding corporate data close to your vest, why not build an Open API to allow everyone within the organization to use data for whatever purpose they need.  Build standards and open access methods to allow technology initiatives to be owned by other groups.

Rather than be the technology police, be the technology ambassadors to the organization. Spend time with each group and understand their needs. Truly understand their needs and goals.

Embrace ideas like Scott’s Marketing CTO.  Reach out to the marketing team and find out what they truly need to get their job done.  If these non-IT teams are looking at growing their technology skill-set, find out why. Find how what you can do to help.

The future of IT is dependent on its ability to be agile, flexible and open. If you can create an IT team that embraces these values, you’ll find that your role as CIO and the IT team’s importance to the organization will grow rather than diminish.

The ability to turn on a dime to deliver what your organization needs is the key to ensuring a strong, useful IT group for the future. You’ll be much more than a the “IT group”…you’ll be the group that allows the organization to grow, innovate and succeed.

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