To achieve digital transformation, revise the CIO job description
The following is a guest article from Matt Fisher, SVP of product strategy, Snow Software.
The IT industry is evolving, and so are the jobs in it. If a hiring manager from the early 2000s were to scan across today's popular career and job posting websites, many of the IT department titles listed would sound like science fiction.
Despite the emergence of roles like "technical evangelist," "cloud manager," "UX guru" and "artificial intelligence engineer," the office of the CIO has stood the test of time. Their job descriptions, however, have not.
A whopping 95% of the 3,160 CIOs polled in the 2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey expect their job to change in the coming months and years. As enterprises embrace new technologies to achieve digital transformation, CIOs must adapt and embrace their new roles too.
Gone are the days when CIOs are primarily responsible for building and delivering technology in their organizations. According to the same Gartner survey, at least 84% of top CIOs are responsible for areas of the business outside traditional IT.
Today, CIOs must also oversee cybersecurity and compliance – many have the GDPR currently top of mind – and are the first asked to evaluate new technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and the Internet of Things.
These responsibilities can drive innovation and differentiation for their organizations, yet they become extremely difficult to achieve when IT spending power becomes decentralized. Aside from adjusting to their own evolving role in line with advances in technology, there is the "disruption gap" that today's CIOs must learn to overcome.
Mind the disruption gap
As enterprise technology becomes easier to use, individual business units rely less on their IT departments to scope, source and manage new technology initiatives.
Analysts like Gartner are already seeing a huge swing in technology spending power in organizations around the world, moving away from IT-procured systems towards business-funded technology consumption, accelerated by the growing adoption of mobile, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS technologies.
As more software (and even hardware) vendors move to subscription models, it becomes easier for business units to select and adopt technologies with no involvement from the IT team or CIO.
Autonomous and self-sufficient business units access the software they want at the point of need, and IT is freed up to focus on other value-adding activities, right? Yet old guard CIOs know that this sort of dynamic fuels the disruption gap — the gulf between what IT thinks they know about technology usage and spending in the enterprise and what is actually happening across the business.
It prevents a CIO from having a clear understanding of what exists in their organization's software estate, making it very difficult to provide the CFO or board with true purchase and consumption levels. Large organizations with hundreds of licensed users can easily blow through a full fiscal year's IT budget in just three months if not managed appropriately.
Although the shift in IT spending power is inevitable, CIOs are still the first line of defense to prevent it from spiraling out of control.
They're also the first to be held accountable if wasteful spending becomes a problem. Rather than undertaking an aggressive campaign to fight the changing tide and control business unit IT, CIOs must maintain influence in the purchase of enterprise technologies, while simultaneously nurturing innovation and talent across their organizations.
Embrace the new CIO role
At times it may seem overwhelming, but change is good. To make this change a bit more manageable, CIOs should:
Embrace business unit IT
An important part of the new CIO role is building an IT function that works hand-in-hand with business units to achieve digital transformation. The horse has left the barn, and the sooner it's accepted that non-IT employees will buy and use software outside traditional procurement processes, the better.
CIOs should champion this change and rather than fighting for control, they should strive to maintain influence. Beginning with the buy in from their direct reports, CIOs should forge relationships with technology leaders across all areas of the business – from the sales manager who has helped close international deals with web conferencing, to the accounting rep that's adopted cloud technology to optimize accounts receivable.
With influence among these individuals, CIOs help ensure IT retains its involvement with enterprise software initiatives.
Apply IT governance to the cloud
Because of the ease with which users can sign up for SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, organizations find they have a disjointed and decentralized procurement mechanism with users purchasing their own subscriptions, rather than following approved software request processes.
increases costs as the organization loses the visibility necessary to negotiate volume discounts and makes it difficult to reallocate subscriptions across business units.
While users get better at spinning-up needed resources, they are extremely poor at tidying up after themselves and decommissioning resources, e.g., zombie VMs that they no longer use or need. Look to accomplish this with automated, workflow driven processes for access request, provisioning and deprovisioning.
Gain visibility into technology consumption
Although relinquishing some control is good, CIOs cannot effectively do their job without a single, integrated and clear view of technology consumption across the enterprise.
There are a host of SaaS and IaaS management tools on the market that will help gain insight of consumption and ensure resources are being used to create value. That way, unnecessary spending can be reallocated to fund digital transformation, which doesn't come cheap.
CIOs today should take advantage of this opportunity to carve out a new role for themselves in their organizations, while inspiring their IT teams to follow their lead.
After all, digital transformation would not be possible without first stripping away the old to make way for the new.