IT Management

The rapidly changing environment CIOs face today has been readily apparent for several years.

Cloud technology is presented as an opportunity and challenge. In several ways, it shows how a CIO’s role today differs vastly from even a few years ago. The cloud gives many companies access to new technologies without a large capital investment or nightmare implementations fraught with huge budget overruns and missed deadlines.

Shifts in corporate IT assets reveal a curious trend. Historically, about 80 percent of an organization’s IT budget was allocated for operating tasks such as running and maintaining current systems. By contrast, only 20 percent was devoted to development and new technologies, giving routine system maintenance the upper hand when it came to allocating human resources.

With cloud computing now largely public, this process has been turned on its head, which is a feeling familiar to many CIOs. Changing expectations from CEOs, a labor shortage and dramatic advances in technology are all challenges forcing CIOs to embrace change more rapidly than ever before.

The “Why” Factors

Most CIOs are aware of the changes occurring, but some may not have considered the why factors. Knowing those, they could then figure out how to tackle their problems more effectively. Despite the new challenges, CIOs have a great opportunity to emerge stronger and more relevant than ever. They’re on their way to finally being viewed as leaders who can help drive revenue growth, keep up with technology in a more meaningful, strategic way, shift budgets to support business-driven initiatives and transform their workforce even with a dearth of highly skilled IT talent.

With so much at stake, CIOs face an imperative to create a new vision for their organization—
one that includes both human and technology assets.

One of the CIO's most important relationships is with the CEO. In years past, it’s fair to say that a CEO might have seen the CIO as an important, but not necessarily strategic, asset. After all, CIOs traditionally were the ones who could put out the fires or deal with other emergencies. Honestly, they may not have had time for anything else! Both the CEO and CIO saw the core competency of the CIO as largely one of managing a complicated, but somewhat predictable, process.

Revenue Priority

What’s the most important overall “process” for a successful organization now? According to the 2012 Gartner survey of CEOs, eight of the top 10 priorities focus on revenue growth, such as bringing new products to market, entering new markets, etc. This has coincided with the growth of new technologies created to address precisely these revenue growth goals. So CIOs can no longer afford to rest on their laurels. They've come to the same conclusion, bringing a completely different set of expectations to the table about the CIO’s primary functions. Understandably, there's greater focus today on how IT can align with the business and how technology can be used to drive revenue growth. To adapt, CIOs must be just as aware as any other leader of how to do their jobs to meet that goal.

Ultimately, CEOs no longer want a CIO to simply drive a process. They want a CIO who can understand every aspect of the business and who has the will to use the latest technologies to place an organization ahead of its competition. CIOs are now seen as a valuable part of the business. That's a good place to be.

Meeting Expectations

Of course, the job of meeting these new expectations only grows more complex when you consider the evolution of new technologies in IT today. Initiatives such as cloud-based technologies are among them, as well as new ways to turn huge amounts of data into actionable information a company can use to make business decisions and drive growth. Social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs, as well as what customers are saying about a company's brand, are adding even more complicated, nuanced layers to a CIO's to-do list concerning the most advanced technologies.

The emergence of these new technologies underscores how CIOs must relate to CEOs and their IT employees. The future challenge is to hire IT professionals who share the same passion for understanding the company's core business. They will need to understand how intimately IT and the products, services and customers of a company are connected. They must be willing to shed the old-school idea of an IT professional, sitting at a desk, just fixing routine system problems. Sure, those problems will still exist, but they will exist in the context of a much larger picture, with the business goals of the company always at the forefront of an IT professional’s mind.

Finding these types of professionals won't be easy. There’s already a shortage of highly skilled technical people, without the need for someone who understands business processes and technology. The labor shortage is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the workplace facing CIOs today.

Consider the numbers: Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that the unemployment rate for computer programmers and DBAs is only 2.5 percent. For every person employed in IT, there are usually two unfilled jobs. Yet, while IT job growth has been strong over the last decade, the number of computer science graduates declined 35 percent in the last five years from the prior five years, a statistic that might have been driven by offshoring in the early 2000s and the perception that the IT career was in decline in the U.S. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Savvy IT professionals are in demand more than ever, and CIOs will need to know how to recruit, train and retain these valuable workers to carry out their goals. Workforce solutions professionals could be a critical partner in making this happen, since they often have the resources to recruit the most highly skilled candidates for the vast amount of changing IT roles.

A Tipping Point

So, is this a tipping point in the workplace of today's CIO? Yes! There’s no doubt CIOs everywhere are experiencing these growing pains in their own unique ways, and it means they must spend a great amount of time re-thinking and re-imagining their core competencies. Again, this is really a good thing! This tipping point will be seen as the best opportunity to date for CIOs to change their engagement in the business and be recognized as strategic assets.

If CIOs can embrace these challenges, they will be able to transform their organizations and deliver true value to the bottom line.