The CIO's expanding digital universe

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The CIO's expanding digital universe

Comment: Does technology proliferation represent an emerging role for the CIO?

Technology proliferation is growing in most enterprises, and it is Gartner's view that in response, CIOs should develop their role to lead across all technologies in the enterprise.

Leading CIOs are starting to extend their role to include oversight and coordination of all enterprise technology, no matter who directly owns or manages it.

In many industries, the role of CIO needs to change in response to the combination of information technology (IT), operational technology (OT), product-embedded technology, and consumer and personal technology.

This applies in industries as diverse as mining, transport, power utilities, education, healthcare and retailing, among others.

CIOs need to refocus their role and the role of their IT organisations to include all technology platforms in the enterprise and beyond, to avoid enterprise inefficiencies and risks and to enhance strategic capability.

It's not the technology connections that are important for their own sake; it's the connection of the business information, processes and relationships that matters.

There is a considerable risk to CIOs who ignore these issues. The recent experience in several healthcare organisations exemplifies the problem.

A few years ago, the position of chief medical informatics officer (CMIO) emerged within healthcare IT organisations and typically became a crossover between the needs of IT and OT in the hospital. Then, as the CMIO position evolved, hospital business leaders gained trust in the role, which was typically filled by a doctor who could blend IT and OT to meet the leaders' needs.This has placed a greater value on the position of the CMIO than on the traditional IT organisation.

Consequently, in some hospitals, the CMIO is now above the CIO in the organisational structure, and the CMIO is a key member of the senior leadership team, whereas the CIO is not.

The risk is that, in these circumstances, the existing CIO has been relegated to a less-influential technology management position.

It creates serious risks of operational failure, inefficiency, security and lack of agility for the enterprise from incoherent information and processes brought about by fragmented or unconnected digital technologies.

There are also risks if the technology leadership role transfers to a non-CIO, because non-CIOs may not have the capabilities to operate robust and reliable technology infrastructures and do not have the broader insight across all traditional IT domains.

In particular, the importance of leadership, strategy, enterprise architecture and governance needs additional and refocused attention from the CIO.

The CIO's role needs to move from primarily leading the IT delivery organisation to leading the systematic, coordinated exploitation of the business assets of processes, information and relationships across all technologies in the enterprise — whatever type of technology, whether it's in a computer or another device and whether owned and managed by the formal IT organisation or elsewhere.

Gartner believes that by 2015, more than 70 percent of enterprises will need effective oversight to ensure the coherent performance of all digital technologies, but less than 50 percent of CIOs will have fully achieved that role.

CIOs who fail to act on technology convergence risk damaging the value of IT and downgrading the CIO's role.

This isn't primarily about taking control as such, although it may come to pass that the CIO does control all or most technology in the enterprise.

CIOs who have already begun to do this report that they often achieve more-effective, faster and well-accepted progress when they explicitly avoid taking control of all technology resources and let the power of the arguments for coherence and connection work.

Then, after a time and as trust and understanding build, control is often offered by those who at the outset would most have resisted such a change.

If you build the credibility and skills of people in your IT organisation in non-IT technology and business areas, and take care to share power and to avoid perceptions of a "CIO land-grab", the benefits to the organisation can be considerable.

John Mahoney is a vice president and distinguished analyst in the CIO research group at Gartner.

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