Deepak Pelluru is a Practice Manager in the Consulting and Systems Integration Unit within the Energy, Communications and Services industry vertical at Infosys. He has 15 years of experience in the IT industry, with experience in IT consulting, large program management, strategic planning as well as handling key client relationships.
The first part of this article series covered the metamorphosis of the CIO role over the years and ponders the question of whether the CIO role will be relevant in the times to come. The question is not totally unfounded in these days where the IT investments and product choices are being made directly by the CXOs after evaluating products and their business impact and value add. The CXOs who run functions like marketing, sales, finance, HR etc. have reached a stage of maturity after having used IT for both business and personal purposes over the period of several years. The advent of social media and usage of collaboration/communication tools by the business users has further enhanced their appreciation of technology.
Now where does this leave the CIO? There are concerns in CIO circles that this role will be either made redundant or eventually relegated to that of back end procurement rather than the current role of a chief decision maker and leading the firm’s large army of in-house IT employees as well as running large enterprise wide programs.
We believe that CIO role will certainly exist, as the firm will always need a chief orchestrator who will tie the various elements of the IT strategy together and make the IT strategy of the disparate functional units to align with that of the firm. While the different business or functional units might have their own choices and preferences on which product to use and what strategy to adopt, the CIO will arguably be the common thread that binds the different pieces of the puzzle together and ensure that the decisions being made by the CXOs is in line with the overall strategy and enable a seamless flow of information across the service lines.
Much as we cannot have a pilot decide for an airline as to which brand of aircraft to procure, we similarly cannot have the business users completely decide on which products they want to use without getting the expert opinion of the CIO. The CIO role in future will change into that of a technology evangelist and a visionary who will drive the futuristic technology adoption for increasing top-line rather than focusing on using IT for improving bottom-line alone.
Different units cannot work in silos as this will create islands of information that cannot be leveraged across the enterprise. Another interesting trend is the re-emergence of the focus on processes. For better agility the processes of the firm need to be fine-tuned and these processes often span across service lines. For example an Order to Cash process will span across CRM, Sales, Inventory, Accounting and other functional units. In order to have visibility into the processes what is needed is a cross functional view of the enterprise and who better to own this endeavor than the CIO.
While trends like cloud-based services and outsourcing will have an impact in terms of paring down the army of employees in the CIOs fold to a handful, the stature and responsibility of the CIO will not diminish. The stature of the CIO is arguably not linked to the number of employees in his team but to the value addition that he brings to the table.
Some theorists go to the extent of saying that CIO role itself can be outsourced! But that would be letting imagination go really wild! There will be certain elements which are core to the organization which can never be outsourced. The trends like cloud will entail the CIO to define the strategy for working in the cloud based world. Technologies such as cloud and mobility will increase the application access to a multitude of newer users and this will bring in newer issues pertaining to managing security and defining policies and contracts governing the same. And so will trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
Bringing It All Together
Technology disruptions drive today’s business model shifts, and who better than the CIO to leverage these disruptions and transform the organization to next-gen business models. Besides, the CIO is the one who has visibility into all the functions and businesses in the enterprise by virtue of his being involved with the IT strategies of the various units which are in turn aligned to the respective business strategies and that of the overall firm as well.
Among all the CXOs, the CIO will be the one who will be most well versed with the cross functional insights and hence this enhances his suitability to play a key role in the strategy formulation of the firm. The CIO will thus evolve into a strategy formulator. The fact that IT is now the fulcrum around which the entire business revolves only further adds credibility to the idea that CIO will make an ideal choice to define the firm’s strategy and probably even become the ideal candidate for the CEO role when time comes.
In summary, the CIO role will certainly transform from yesterday’s role of being the chief decision maker for finalizing the IT products and services bought by the firm and running the firm’s large army of in-house IT employees as well as running the large enterprise wide IT programs and projects to that of an enabler, technology evangelist, innovator, integrator, orchestrator, policy maker and finally the strategy formulator for the firm.
Editor’s note: Ravi Kumar S also contributed to this article. He is the Global Head of Consulting and Systems Integration business in the Manufacturing Industry Group of Infosys. He has more than 18 years of experience in the consulting space.
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