Monday, March 14, 2016

None from the new generation want to be the CIO ? I wonder …

Someone forwarded me a link on the finding that no one in the current lot of fresh job seekers is excited about CIO as a career. The writer of fame and an opinion leader went on to predict that the role has been short lived in its amoebic existence getting pulled and pushed in all directions with every change in technological wave which threatens to change the technology landscape and value proposition for enterprises. Unable to resist a rejoinder, I decided to provide an alternative view to the sustainability of the CIO role

CIO’s role is complex, everyone agrees to this fact, even the antagonist acknowledged the fact. CIOs manage infrastructure, business applications, and communication from the enterprise to customers, suppliers, regulators, and interested stakeholders. They help run the business efficiently or what is now referred to as “Keeping the lights on” or “Business as usual”. They are also responsible for information security, business continuity, disaster recovery, governance, risk and compliance, and contribute to business success.

Barring the recent fad driven CXOs with X = Digital, Cloud, Social (media), Innovation, Mobility (?!), and many more to come, the CIO is the youngest of the C-suite. S/he has seen a lot more discussion and debate around the role, responsibilities, accountability, KPIs and importance. It is probably in focus because every other CXO is now dependent on the CIO and the IT team to provide them with basic standardized and secure infrastructure to conduct business and consume information to stay successful in their roles.

This situation elevates insecurities and spurs demand for breaking away from the shackles that IT has bound the business in; restricted End user compute devices with lower juice and freedom in comparison to their home devices; lock down mobile phones with containerized security or locked USB ports and unrestrained internet access (I am a responsible manager of this company !). Revolt thus stoked attempts to surface with errant behavior (as seen by the CIO) and deployment of islanded cloud solutions.

The resultant angst creates perceptions of IT rigidity and bureaucracy which business users hate and seek approvals for exceptions to the rule book. Enterprise IT needs to be simple that does not require training; I don’t need a training program or manual to use technology for personal consumption; then why is enterprise IT so complex ? They forget the fact that enterprise solutions are limited by budgets, require structured data that lends itself to analytics, correlations, and associations for transactions, payments, and other business processes.

Everyone would however agree that all the applications can do with a dose of simplicity which is not an unreasonable ask. Does this imply that UI/UX should be a separate portfolio with the creation of one more silo CUO or Chief User (Interface/Experience) Officer, a person who shall be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that systems remain idiot proof ? Or the task can be done by a specialist in the IT or any other team ? Such has been the rationale for slicing away the role of the CIO to create new micro but super-sized heads.

History bears the fact that the fancy and irrational paranoia to rechristen or create parallel roles has borne no fruit and almost all of them have been relegated to oblivion. The Internet, Cloud, SMAC, Security, Digital, and what have you fancy, have all disappeared after the title ran out of vogue with realizations that they were too small a role or responsibility to sustain standalone. The willing or grudgingly magnanimous CIO has taken them in his/her stride, not just surviving, but thriving and growing from strength to strength.

So when I see proclamations and hypothesis put across by the learned and opinionated, I wonder why do we get anxiety pangs ? Does postulation of such theories make them the reality for the CIO ? I have seen discussion, debate, instigative behavior, challenge, and provocation from peers and outsiders but never felt threatened in my role or tremors in my foundation of trust build brick by brick with credible delivery and dialogue. I believe that CIOs have nothing to be afraid of except their own fears towards their longevity.

And talking about no one wanting to be a CIO ? Probably the institute in question is going to have a big miss in the digital world !

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