With the rise of the cloud and stronger procurement functions, some organisations may ask whether they really need an IT function. That's why many CIOs think it's vital they move beyond technology implementation and operation. Mark Samuels reports.
"CIOs now have a better opportunity than ever before to move beyond the confines of IT," says Catherine Doran, director of corporate development for infrastructure specialist Network Rail.
She should know. Doran has followed 30 years' experience in business technology, and CIO roles at BT and CapitalOne, with what is often seen as the apotheosis for IT leaders: a senior executive position around the boardroom table at a blue-chip organisation.
In Doran's case, the old adage that CIO really stands for 'career is over' is redundant. She has used the CIO position as a means to demonstrate her broader business abilities. The result is that Doran is judged on her capability to lead transformation across the organisation and not just in the IT department. So, how has she managed to make the transition?
"I've been thinking in terms of business outcomes for many years," she explains, suggesting that other IT leaders aiming to move out of the datacentre must take a similarly results-focused stance. "That's not only the right way of thinking, it's simply what I'm required to do."
Such outcomes-led thinking is less rooted in the traditional physical aspects associated with IT implementation. "As you move away from IT and towards the business, you start thinking in a more sales and marketing-oriented way," says Doran.
"There's no difference between a CIO and line-of-business executive in terms of the key issues, such as costs, deliverables and outcomes. But there is a difference in terms of actions and engagement."
For senior IT professionals hoping to make the move, the advice is simple - enjoy technology but always demonstrate how applications and information can provide tangible benefits to the business: "It's fine to like the technical stuff but contributing more broadly means you have to move away from your roots," says Doran.
In fact, IT professionals probably do not have a choice. CIOs need to watch their collective backs, with experts already suggesting technology in the not-too-distant future could be managed by line-of-business specialists who understand technology and can purchase IT like a utility to meet specific executive requirements.
Shift to cloud services
Research from Gartner suggests that businesses will expect to adopt new cloud services much faster than originally expected. Just three per cent of CIOs have most of IT running in the cloud or on software as a service (Saas) technologies, but the analyst expects this number to increase to 43 per cent during the next four years.
Recruitment specialist Tim Cook, who runs the CIO practice for search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, wonders whether the increased use of cloud computing and the stronger role for the procurement function will lead some organisations to...
Mark Samuels is a business journalist and editor at IT leadership organisation CIO Connect. He has written for various organisations, including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Guardian Government Computing and Times Higher Education.