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What is the Role of the

By Greg Fittinghoff, Acting CIO, Fashion Institute of Technology and Allyson Campos Gilbert, President, And Adaptation

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Greg Fittinghoff, Acting CIO, Fashion Institute of Technology and Allyson Campos Gilbert, President,

What will the role look like a mere five years from now?  As the recently retired CIO for Home Box Office, Inc, I was asked to write an article regarding my thoughts on what will become of the CIO role. I choose to write this article with a long term colleague of mine Allyson Gilbert, CEO of Adaptation, Inc. who helps companies during a workplace transition.  .

Let's start the discussion with a quick snapshot of what is already happening.  As a result of company financial targets and ever shrinking "time to results", CIO's have responded by leveraged outsourcing, cloud services, agile development and the principles of lean six sigma. CIO's are also dealing with the shift in team skill sets needed to thrive in an environment where new technologies, enterprise architecture, vendor management, change management and orchestration skills need to be among the core competencies of all members of IT.   We'll go out on a limb here and say these changes are now just normal IT business practices. 

So let's talk about what's coming....

Fact: The Corporate Technology function is being disrupted by the convergence of different technologies, including cloud computing, cognitive computing, mobile, robotics, etc.  Businesses that are focused on growing and surviving must master the ability to quickly identify new opportunities, as well as react to market conditions.  Typically, Technology organizations are at the core of enabling a business to react to and identify new opportunities and market situations.  So literally, The CIO and the Technology organization is either a revenue enabler, that takes advantage of these new opportunities, or an inhibitor, that misses the chance to achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  

 "The new CIO must be able to orchestrate an ecosystem that is composed of more and more products/services that are not under their control"

We've all heard the story that Rome wasn't built in a day.  However, how fast could Rome be built if - you had an IaaS vendor with a location where the pipes, roads, and foundation for buildings already existed, and a Saas/PaaS vendor with buildings that come mostly preassembled and already fit into the foundations from the other vendor? The focus then becomes the functionality/esthetics/branding of the buildings and streets.  Imagine the impact of delivering Rome in months versus years.   Additionally, the use of Cloud services makes it very easy to explain the cost of building each part of Rome and then the usage fees as populations of people start using the services within the city.

We realize the Rome example is a highly simplified version of building city/product/services. However, the CIO's that capitalize on an approach that leverages technology vendor specializations will enable a time to results and predictability of costs that is unmatchable by the CIO that is purchasing the land, then excavating, then laying the infrastructure, etc.  Moving from being a builder to an orchestration leader is a significant role change for the CIO. The new CIO role requires an orchestrator that can deliver much faster time to results and make a direct impact on the competitiveness and long term viability of the business.

Now let's talk about the impact of emerging technologies on Technology organizations.  We'll use Cognitive Computing, Virtual Reality, and Drones for the purpose of this discussion. Setting aside the normal debate about which technologies will survive over time (think 3D TV hype a few years ago) our discussion is about being prepared to incorporate and support new technologies as part of your enterprise architecture, information security, and the technical expertise of your technology team.

Cognitive Computing is no longer science fiction.  IBM Watson is already providing knowledge on healthcare, weather patterns, and many other predictive analytics. Back in Oct/Nov of 2015, the New York Times and Google released a very impressive use of Virtual Reality as a means to experience a story.  We've heard about Amazon's plans to use Drones for package delivery.  But what about Drones that will be sized to perform functions such as inspecting the inside of pipes, sewers, oil tanks, or veins?  The convergence of these technologies creates scenarios where drones are providing the input for a virtual reality inspection of something and that digital data is then passed to a cognitive computing service for analysis and decision making.   The question to CIOs is how prepared are you and your team to lead and exploit emerging technologies to reduce internal operating costs and enable new products/services to increase revenue or retain customers? 

As we previously discussed, the role of the CIO is morphing into a Chief Orchestration role.  The new CIO must be able to orchestrate an ecosystem that is composed of more and more products/services that are not under their control.  They must view technology solutions from a profit/expense standpoint as revenue enablers and they will need to rethink their risk management effort from the perspective of an Orchestrator. CIO's currently perform a level of orchestration with vendors that support the data center and COTS applications.  But in the future, if you no longer have a data center and all applications are run by a variety of Cloud vendors, the level of orchestration becomes exponentially more complex.

In order for the CIO and Technology team to be positioned as true revenue enablers (leveraging existing and emerging technologies) the CIO must ensure his most important resources – internal technology team and external vendors – focus on maturing the following core competences:

1. Specialization & Competency:  The team must have an exceptional skill level regarding business domain knowledge, emerging technologies, enterprise architecture, Cloud technologies, vendor management/orchestration, program management, and information security.

2. Commitment to Technology Education: The must be ongoing investment across the team in developing technical competency in emerging technologies that have gained credibility.

3. Innovation & Ideas: The ideas for how to leverage technology can come from any part of a team (employees/vendors). Technology teams must have a collaborative environment and sustainable process to invite, vet, invest, and deliver on technology ideas that enable the business.