October 15, 2014

It’s not just technical anymore – the new role of CIOs

The new role of CIOs

What is keeping CIOs awake at night?

This was the question on everyone’s lips at the recent CIO Summit in Cape Town, which saw IT decision-makers from a broad range of businesses and industries across South Africa gather to discuss insights, trends, challenges and ideas in the IT arena.

The summit gave CIOs a welcome opportunity to interact with key vendors and learn which technologies are in the pipeline and how they can prepare for them. One such vendor was HP, whose current and upcoming technologies are designed to complement the drivers of what it calls the new style of IT.

“HP understands the changing demands on the CIO and at an event like the CIO Summit,” said David McMurdo, Indirect Sales Country Manager at HP South Africa. “It’s extremely valuable for HP to be able to talk through our solution offerings around our strategic pillars – these being cloud, security, big data and mobility.”

Aside from the technical aspects, summits such as these have become increasingly important in outlining the changing role of the CIO as an enterprise enabler. CIOs are rapidly becoming more than just IT decision makers. They are expected to adopt a more strategic leadership role while still ensuring their departments are equipped to deal with the tidal wave of disruptive new technologies coming their way.

CIOs cannot hope to do all of this in a vacuum. They need help in understanding where technology is going and how this will enable them align IT resources to deliver against business expectations, including being first to market, agile and able to meet changing goals. Shortening project delivery times and while remaining cost effective must become the norm.

These points were reflected in the summit’s main point of focus, which was how to enable CIOs to meet the demands of being held accountable for solutions that improve business efficiencies, streamline processes and make a direct contribution to the bottom line.

There was a growing consensus that IT departments need to make a real difference and start delivering on promises of the past. One common thought was that IT spends too much time on technical products, forgetting about the consumer of services.

The key takeaway was that the goal of IT should be to enable the user on the other end. As technology becomes more ingrained into business processes, part of the CIO’s responsibility should be to seek out those IT solutions that can hide the underlying complexity while remaining available and compellingly easy to use.

The other important responsibility should be to ensure the users have enough understanding of these solutions to use them effectively. The value of training of end users should not be underestimated.

The rallying call came up loud and clear – IT needs to get back to basics.

In summary, the CIO Summit provided a valuable warning that CIOs can no longer afford to focus on the technical at the expense of user experience.

Business is no longer looking for IT to enable its goals, it expects it. There needs to be a rapid realignment of IT to its customers, to make use of the next wave of IT innovations, CIOs need to be able to balance vendor advances against their own internal directions.

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