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CIOs 'need to reimagine the role of IT'

IT News |  21/10/2011
CIOs 'need to reimagine the role of IT'Chief information officers (CIOs) need to be on the pulse where new information technology processes are concerned. To a large extent, it is their vision which shapes the use of IT within their organisation, and helps deliver business benefits through technology.

But according to a new report, CIO leaders must do more than simply modernise technology and bring new IT tools online. Analyst firm Gartner claims that CIOs need to re-imagine the IT function, accounting for the changing business environment. The firm says that, in the age of mass collaboration driven by consumerised IT, CIOs need to work in a different way.

According to Gartner, there are three initiatives to implement as CIOs seek to re-imagine IT, and lead from the front: post-modern business, simplicity, and creative destruction.

Daryl Plummer, managing vice-president at Gartner, explained that in the 21st century, businesses have no walls. "It must be everywhere. It will be a virtual and fluid business that changes as customers change," he stated.

"In the post-modern business, you will forget phrases such as 'business architecture' and embrace phrases like customer delight, customer involvement, and customer intimacy," Mr Plummer said. He commented that customer and constituent demands will change faster than IT architectures, meaning CIOs need to be on the top of their game.

"In a world where the average company only lasts the years, every added point of customer satisfaction alone could add one year to the life of your business," he stated. So an investment in customer loyalty can be interpreted as money invested in the future of the business.

He suggested that businesses are becoming post-modern by leveraging "the trends of the age", such as virtualisation and cloud computing. This technique is about cost savings, but also about specialisation, Mr Plummer noted. He explained that cloud vendors can aggregate, integrate, govern, or customise hosted services to make them more specific to the needs of consumers.

"They will re-imagine business, and post-modern businesses will even re-imagine the roles that IT departments will play," Mr Plummer added. He claimed that three out of ten IT organisations will become cloud brokers for their business, helping them to survive and expand over the coming years.

By re-imagining IT, CIOs can also deliver simplicity to end users, helping them to cope better in a complex, time-crunched world, said Gartner research vice president Hung LeHong. He suggested that IT leaders have a responsibility to make technology accessible to the people who can benefit most from it. And as an increasing number of consumers embrace smartphones and tablets, demand for a simpler IT experience is being demonstrated.

Mr LeHong explained that the PC is no longer king, and consumers want to have full IT functionality on their device of choosing. "By 2015, mobile application development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber PC projects by four to one," he noted. "IT needs to be part of building out this future. Things should be so simple that people should be able to do what they need to do on any device."

If CIOs deliver simplicity, they can make a significant difference to consumers, and this may be rewarded in brand loyalty. But as Mr LeHong noted, simplicity done right does not eliminate complexity, it simply makes it invisible. So CIOs are not attempting to 'dumb down' the IT experience, they are seeking to enrich it for the benefit of the consumer.

Tina Nunno, vice-president at Gartner, said demand for game-changing IT capabilities are growing every year. IT leaders must transform their businesses, products, services, and value proposition to the external customer, and challenge traditional ways of thinking, she claimed.

CIOs need to ensure their input strongly influences overall business decisions, and they can do this by displaying clear leadership. As Gartner stated, they should stop taking demands and requirements and start making recommendations.

Ms Nunno highlighted the importance of destroying perfectionism and embracing calculated risk, as this can help maximise the value of IT in the long run. Companies which are risk averse tend to be predictable, and as a consequence, an easy target for rival firms, she claimed. "Strive to take calculated risks and surprise both your business and the competition," Ms Nunno urged.

The dynamic nature of IT dictates that CIOs cannot stand still, they must be able to embrace change, and where appropriate, drive it. Their leadership helps others make the most of IT, so an ambitious, forward-thinking approach can deliver significant value across organisations.

Posted by Jon Aspinell


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