Monday, August 10, 2015

Analyst prediction come true: large enterprise with no CIO

For many years there have been predictions that with changing technology and business landscape, the CIO role will disappear. Triggers were real and imaginary – evolving or disruptive technology, shift in organization dynamics as a result of external environmental and economic factors – everyone loved to bash up the CIO and predicated extinction of the role. The hypothesis became a favorite topic of discussion in every CIO and technology conference; CIOs attempted to defend themselves and then decided to ignore the doomsayers.

The existence of the role can be traced to the turn of the century which demonstrates its recent nature. The first CIOs evolved from engineering and technology foundation which became a perceived disadvantage for many since they lacked the social skills and finesse of other longer tenured CXOs. This did not deter some who with their excellence created business outcomes that the industry recognized; they became the stars which others wanted to emulate; after all who does not want to be successful and showered with adulation ?

Fast forward to current times, yet another buzz and hype has analysts talking about why the CIO should move on to becoming the Chief Digital Officer or become extinct. Micro-specializing the role to a technology or trend seems to be the avenue to create a scare; forgetting the current complexity and nature of the beast being managed to keep the business chugging along, growing the company with stable and mature IT systems acquired over a period of time. CIOs have taken this in their stride by hiring experts from the outside.

Finding greener pastures in lateral moves, some CIOs decided to branch off into Human Resources, Supply Chain, Operations, Corporate Social Responsibility, at times as dual responsibilities. There has also been a handful who made it to the big corner office as the CEO of not just IT companies, but even large enterprises where they had spent time as CIO. The surprise however has been that CIOs from the first batch now crossing over the half way mark – age of 50+ sounds a bit old – beginning to seek an alternative calling in life.
·        I want to be a Coach ! I love interacting with people and helping them be successful; the training that I acquired over the years has prepared me to be a certified Coach & Mentor.
·        I would love to help startups to achieve their growth with better products that someone will buy; most of them have struggled to create a connect with enterprise use cases.
·        My life went by in a whirlwind; I want to catch up with my life and family before it is too late. I want to enjoy my life pursuing my passions for which I had no time in my work life.
·        Having been a CIO for more than 25-30 years, I have been working in automatic mode; the challenges of the role are no longer enough to stimulate me. I want to do something different.
Many of my peers from the industry were getting restless and wanted to get off the treadmill. The lure of fame, power, money, stock options, was not enough to keep them interested in their mundane and at times frustrating roles. Their self-actualization needs were getting starved and for most it was a matter of time or a trigger that made them take the plunge. In almost every case, the first reactions from the industry was: OMG ! What happened ? Did something go wrong ? Why did he leave without any options ?

They had set a good teams in place, working in harmony aligned to optimized processes that ensured minimal disruption with their departure. Everything continued to work as before though in a few company’s new initiatives and discussions around technology led disruption fell silent. The wheels of the enterprise continued to move on their own until the momentum began to slow down in the absence of the energy that the CIO brought to the table. Many companies decided to continue the journey while leaving the position vacant.

What will be the short and long-term impact of this decision ? None of the analysts, academicians, or the opinionated have ever attempted to answer this question. If the CIO has thought it through, s/he would have prepared the next line to scale up to fill the void; that limits the impact to short-term. Enterprises with checkered history of IT use and adoption have attempted to park the role with another CXO with a view that leadership in IT is unimportant. This is where I believe the adverse effects will be felt for a long time. 

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