The Big disrupt exists for the sole of exploring new disruptive technologies and companies shaking things up in business and culture and no technology in recent years has shaken things up as much as cloud computing or better known as the cloud.
The main benefit the cloud lends to organizations big or small is agility and thus the ability to respond quickly to the needs of customers. The agility the clous lends also a major driver to its adoption as organizations everywhere as the phrase “adapt of die” is not just snappy saying you’ll find on a bumper sticker but the organizing principle of modern business.
The cloud has had many implications for business because of the agility it offers organizations but this has had a serious impact on the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The advent of the cloud has transformed IT from a traditional maintenance cost centre and even a potential obstacle to progress to one of the key drivers of innovation and even future growth in a number of organizations.
The change in mentality among CIO’s in light of advent of the cloud has IT has CIO’s looking at adding value the business illustrated by a 2012 poll of CIO’s that recorded a substantial focus among CIO’s on revenue growth as “81 percent of respondents see revenue growth as a crucial priority” alongside customer facing priorities such as “Customer satisfaction (78 percent), improving product capabilities (69 percent), cost cutting (65 percent) and the ability to innovate for competitive advantage (57 percent).
This more business focused approach to IT among CIO’s encouraged by the onset of the cloud has had CIO’s looking for ways to add value to organizations as while the cloud has given, by default, greater responsibility over how organizations operate, this has led to leaders in organizations to openly question the value their IT departments actually brought to the business. This public audit of the CIO in relation to other executives in the C-suite, particularly the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), has forced CIO’s to take a greater interest in the business side of the organizations they serve as the growth of importance of CMO’s as well as the increasingly data driven nature of the role has led to predictions of IT departments to see cuts in their budgets as “organizations move maintenance-intensive tasks into the cloud”.
This new reality confronting the CIO provides a great opportunity for CIO’s to maximize their importance to their respective organizations but in doing so this makes them more accountable than ever before and with such accountability the role of the IT leader in an organization becomes more precarious as NetApp CEO Tom Georgens observed ““The opportunity for CIOs to differentiate and provide competitive advantage for the firm might be greater than it's ever been. However, the risks associated with being a CIO are also greater than they've ever been."”.
However, while most CIO’s have embraced their new role in the advent of the cloud, the actual department he or she runs might have different ideas. Martin Ogden, CIO of Expro Group, came up against this apprehension among his department as he received pushback when introducing a cloud based HR tool designed to manage the company’s growing number of employees across the globe.
While Ogden was keen to play up the benefits of the tool to the organization and sees as a glaring opportunity for his department to add value, his department was clearly concerned that the tool was “ the project was largely delivered by HR, rather than IT”. However their concern was largely peaked by Ogden’s and clearly Expro Group’s intention to move more processes into the cloud, However. Their concern for their jobs didn’t seem to bother Ogden who saw it as a opportunity for “those reasonably well paid, highly skilled members of staff and actually get them to do something useful for the organisation.”.
In that one sentence above revealed not only the apprehension IT departments have towards the cloud but the rather snide attitude the new breed of CIO has towards his own department reminiscent of Alec Baldwin’s classic “always be closing “ speech in the expletive heavy screen adaptation of playwright David Mamet’s masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross.
Why CIO’s like Ogden would have such an attitude towards his own departments makes no sense given the advent of the cloud and its commercial availability allows other departments to bypass the CIO and complicate his role in the organization at the same time as increasingly other executives in the C-suite now have their own IT spend.
What’s also strange about the CIO poking at the futility of his department is that the arguments that IT or the CIO is becoming is a very stupid argument in an gage where just about every business is a technology whether they like it or not. In this new reality where the arbitrary line between technology and business begins to blur, the CIO is arguably going to be one of the most important roles in any business going away as doing business in the modern world, for better or worse, has become technical question as much as an economic one.
In sum, the advent of the cloud has shaken up the C-suite and the CIO in particular but the cloud in doing this has only revealed a simple but telling truth about the business world, there isn’t much of a dividing line between tech and business and in the future, no one will able to tell the difference.