The CIO Reinvented - Page 1

Sep 14, 2006

Mike Scheuerman

IT is dead. Long live IT. Makes an interesting headline doesn’t it? In a world where software is becoming a subscription and no longer a licensed product what’s a CIO to do?

Just think about it: no more annual upgrades, no more juggling staff to get around to every machine to maintain the applications and no more midnight upgrades. What a life of ease! I wish. Now the real job begins; figuring out how to get the business processes delivering more value faster.

This describes the job of the CIO over the next few years: building a whole new way of delivering technology-enabled business processes that are at least as integrated and seamless as the ones we use today. And, as with all change, it has to be managed carefully.

The CIO, who today worries about application vendor licensing and having enough infrastructure to support all those applications in the future, will be thinking about what tidbit of software can be subscribed to that will fill a particular niche in the business process scheme.

There are a lot of terms being thrown around that try to describe this phenomenon: SOA, BPM, SaS, Web 2.0, etc. Yet each of them only describes one particular aspect of this elephant.

When you back up a little and look at the big picture, it becomes a much different kind of problem. The transition from licensed applications to software-as-service will be a rough road, just like the one from mainframe to PC to networked systems.

The majority of the vendors, who are there for you today, will not make the leap over this chasm. Many new ones will develop on the other side to take their place. The CIO (a.k.a. Business Technology Officer) will have to gain more insight into the company’s business processes and strategy, a greater understanding of the service levels needed, and a better way to perform vendor due diligence investigations.

As a CIO, you’re no longer in charge of technology, but rather of ensuring that everyone in the company can get their job done. The technology has become ubiquitous and as such no one notices that it’s there until it’s gone. The competitive edge is not in the technology but the application of the technology in innovative, cost-effective ways.

A deep understanding of the company’s business goals and strategy is required. You have to work with your business colleagues to develop a vision and plan of how all of the pieces of the puzzle will fit together to form a cohesive, reliable, seamless business technology infrastructure.

Moreover, you have to be able to communicate that vision and plan to everyone including the executive staff, the vendors who provide the services and ultimately, to the shareholders and customers. There are a lot of new skills that need to be acquired and polished to get through this transition.

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