The past several years have presented an interesting time for CIOs, their staff and the companies they work within. In many ways, the changes are significant shifts how companies have operated.
IT has a history of tectonic shifts
Tectonic shifts are not new. In just the past 25 years, we have seen many major shifts in the way we operate. Many of the changes were about technology. But others directly impacted how we think of and consume technology. Here are just a few:
- Distributed Computing: Moving from centralized mainframe computers that took up entire rooms to small computers that could fit on a desk. The smaller size presented greater processing capabilities at a fraction of the cost. This trend has continued right down to the very smartphone we carry today.
- Internet: There was a time when companies actually believed the Internet was a non-essential connection. A gimmick of sorts. Today, a company would have a hard time surviving without connecting to the Internet.
- Virtualization: Virtualization presented the opportunity to do two core things: 1) create abstraction between the application and hardware and 2) more fully utilize resources. This provided greater flexibility and utilization.
- Cloud Computing: The advent of cloud presented the opportunity to take virtualization to a whole new level through the abstraction of resources and ownership. Now, a company can operate while abstracting from the physical resources. In essence, cloud presents a significant leverage point for organizations.
Each of these shifts passed through a period of disbelief, challenge and eventually acceptance. Arguably, one could suggest that cloud still sits on the precipice of acceptance. However, each has also become a core foundation to today’s computing environment.
Today, there are a number of new tectonic shifts in flight. Each shift follows a similar path of disbelief, challenge and will eventually gain acceptance.
The five tectonic shifts facing today’s CIO
- The IT customer is the company’s customer: Technically, this has always been the case. It may have come through a secondary source: The internal user. Many IT organizations still believe their customer is the internal user. Today’s IT organization needs to think about how IT supports the company’s customer. That’s not to say that the internal user is not important. But supporting the internal user is in concert with supporting the external customer. It also positions IT to align with other departments within the company.
- Consumers drive business behaviors: This could be seen as a ‘who-drives-who’ statement. The reality is that consumer behaviors are driving business behaviors. One can look to several examples to support this:
- Cloud: Gmail, Yahoo, Netflix, Dropbox.
- Mobile: Smartphones, tablets and wearables.
- Speed: Real-time satisfaction of results, information and access.
To understand where we are going, just look toward the next generation of millennials, digital natives and ultimately, children. Understand how the next generation is adopting technology and adapt accordingly.
- Real-time replaces batch process: Many core IT processes follow a batch processing methodology. However, today’s business is moving toward real-time access to information and analytics. Speed is the keyword here and plays into the consumer/ customer drive for real-time satisfaction.
- Transformational CIOs replace Traditional CIOs: This is probably one of the most sensitive shifts to discuss. Transformation CIOs are business leaders first that happen to have responsibility for technology. They understand how the company makes and spends money at an intimate level. Traditional CIOs are more technology-focused.
- IT becomes a business organization that happens to have responsibility for technology: IT (and the CIO as its leader) needs to become a business organization from top-to-bottom. Each function must consider the business value of their actions and the best course to take.
Reaching for the stars
There is no question that these shifts (like those in the past) will rock IT to the core. We can expect each to follow the same sequence of disbelief, challenge and acceptance. In fact, a small number of CIOs are already well down this path. The reality is that technology, or how it is used, is changing right around us.
Now is absolutely the best time to be in IT. It is also the scariest for IT folks and the stakes are only increasing. The hope is that IT (as a profession) and the CIO see the future and aim for the stars. The future is brighter than ever.
Originally published @ Gigaom Research 12/15/2014