A View of the future CIO

As a marketing consultant, it is critical that we be aware of changing trends, market disruptions and technological impacts so that we can integrate them into the potential messages, value propositions and benefits of our marketing campaigns. The 2010 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium that I attended is a good example of some of the changes that are happening. This year’s theme was “Top Line Growth and Bottom Line Results”.  The focus was on CIO leadership and their role/involvement with he two challenges.

The morning sessions consisted of CIO panels, with the discussions centering on how they addressed the growth and results within today’s environment, and their perceived roles and responsibilities.

The consensus was the following:

A-    Cost cutting activities, while on-going, seem to have run their course. While this is always on everyone’s agenda and reviewed with senior management, the focus has changed.  The change that is being demanded now by senior management and the stakeholders is “we need growth!”  As stated, cost-cutting has gone so far and to maintain or become profitable enterprises have to either start growing or continue growing.

B-    Successful or smart companies are making key investments during these troubled times.  Instead of pulling back and waiting for a sunny day, they are investing, mainly for growth and to stay ahead of their competition.

C-    Outsourcing:  CIOs and their partners are taking a very hard look at all functions within the enterprises and deciding, from a business point of view, which functions can be outsourced.   They claim this addresses three issues, internal cost savings, improved efficiencies and the ability to deploy resources into core capabilities.

D-    New ideas for growth are not always coming from technology. Changing workflows or processes or working with partners and vendors are producing positive results.

As for the evolving role and responsibilities of a CIO, again while they all agreed it is challenging, the evolution seems to be causing a “split personality.” The key characteristics for the future CIOs are the following:

  • They have to be an “enabler” versus a “driver.”  A driver does not always get buy-in and thus projects might not meet their goals and objectives versus an enabler who gets everyone involved and the CIO is seen as making things happen.
  • CIO must be in a collaborative role NOT “here-it-is” stance.  So the challenge is to foster change but in a supportive and collaborative way.
  • Provide innovative contributions to the enterprise.  CIOs are being asked to drive growth and thus chartered to find new and hopefully unique ways to move the company forward.  The challenge here is that fundamental activities like infrastructure and mail systems must be rock solid and efficient before a CIO can look at making innovative activities. Thus the balance of tactical activities versus developing new functions or methods.
  •  Is a CIO also the CTO?  There was no right or wrong answer here but everyone agreed that the functions were needed and it was more of a company philosophy then a hard and fast rule.  Some thought the CTO should report to the CIO, while others thought that you needed an “independent” group looking at technologies
  • The key characteristic, and this was unanimous, is that CIO must have business acumen.  Some even went so far to say that in their search for CIOs that they considered technical expertise secondary (one CIO was not from an IT environment at all!).  The point being is that to help drive the company forward one has to understand the lines of businesses and support the success from a business point of view, not just a technological vision.


In summary the CIO of the future (actually today) is literally in the middle!  He or she must be tactical but innovative, an enabler but is able drive things to completion, collaborative but lead in certain areas and most important have solid business knowledge/ understanding with great collaborative skills.

So if you are a CIO, how prepared are you for the next challenges or if you are a member of management is you CIO prepared for these challenges?

RHL 05/25/10

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