I believe that IT is at a crossroads. In some of my recent blogs at TechRepublic, I've discussed how the role of the CIO must evolve in order to stay relevant, but that's not really anything new; IT has always had to evolve and the role of the senior IT leader has always been one of tremendous change. With that in mind, here are five issues that I believe will rise to the forefront as we make our way through the coming year. Obviously, there are more, but these are five that I believe will be especially important.
Depending on the day of the week, how Europe looks and what color the sky is, we've either exited the recession, are at the tail end of it or are moving into a double-dip. Regardless, it's safe to say that workers in America have faced ever-mounting pressures over the past few years as organizations have executed multiple rounds of layoffs and consolidated the downsized work force into the remaining employees. There is no end to the stories about the people that have been left behind to continue operating the same workload with fewer people. There have been reports in recent weeks about a possible uptick in IT hiring in 2012. As more jobs become available in 2012, those that have been downsized will surely rush to fill these newly opened slots, the risk of losing really key people in your organization will also rise. While some companies have adopted a "people should just be happy that they even have jobs" mentality (yes, I heard that exact phrase uttered from the CFO of an organization that publicly purports to care about its people!), those attitudes will have to change if these same companies intend to retain top talent. As a CIO, you need to make sure your people remain challenged in a positive way and are fairly compensated and also make sure that they're not on the road to burn out.
Bring Your Own Device
As I peruse blogs and articles and even as I write some, the topic of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) keeps appearing. In many cases, the articles are encouraging CIOs to jump on this growing trend while others vehemently oppose it. Personally, I believe that BYOD will prove to be an unstoppable force. If it's not done already, many CIOs in 2012 will find it necessary to craft a policy and procedure framework around support of these devices. These policies and procedures don't need to include support for anything ad everything, though; in fact, the right policies and procedures will continue to limit and control exactly what can and cannot be done with corporate resources in order to maintain high levels of information security and make it possible for the organization to remain firmly in control or organizational information assets.
However, without such a framework, CIOs are left with, at best, the options of simply saying "No" to everything or providing support on an ad hoc and potentially inconsistent basis. Neither are acceptable. The CIO that simply says "No" to everything will find an organization with vast "shadow IT" resources as employees and even executives begin to simply ignore the edict. CIOs provide ad hoc support will find themselves having to support anything and everything under the sun and, without thorough vetting of a set of procedures, may place organizational information assets at risk.
In 2012, those CIOs that have thus far resisted the iPad revolution will need to find ways to embrace this technology. Live, eat and breath mobililty!
The democratization of IT
Regardless of industry and governance structure, there has generally been an autocratic element to IT and with good reason; IT and the services and data supported by this function is the lifeblood for many companies. In a previous article at TechRepublic, I mentioned that a skill that CIOs must master involves aligning increasingly unit-driven technology decisions with the organization's technology and strategic plans. As units continue to attempt to go it alone with their IT purchases, it becomes more important than effort for the CIO to manage the chaos. Note that I did not say control the chaos. In 2012, it will be more important than ever for the CIO to exercise his business-savvy nature and ensure that he has strong and positive relationships with his peers in order to help drive them in a direction that makes sense for the organization even as technology decisions become more distributed.
Being or becoming the "2015 CIO"
I recently wrote an blog here at TechRepublic outlining what I've seen many pundits detail as the CIO of 2015. In that article, I discuss why I believe that the future is now and that those CIO 2015 traits are one that are or will become absolutely critical in 2015. If you're a CIO that is inwardly-facing - that is, focusing primarily on the daily routine of IT - it's time, to identify a key lieutenant to assume those duties so that you can refocus your efforts on more strategic and more value-add services.
I fully expect to see many, many current CIOs in the coming years either relegated to technology directors while the CFO assumes strategic technology initiatives or removed and replaced with one that can move IT beyond the tactical.
That's not to say that these CIOs have done anything wrong at all. However, many will have difficultly adapting to the changing environment.
Dedicating resources to the value-add
This has been a growing need for a long time but is coming to a head in many organizations. It's generally accepted that ongoing IT operations consume 80% or more of IT staff time leaving, in many cases, no more than 20% of time for value-add project work. This fact has always frustrated IT executives as well as their business peers who continue to have more and growing demands.
In 2012 (or before if you have the chance!), CIOs need to find ways to drive inefficiency out of IT organizations in order to reduce this 80% to something less. Let me be clear: I realize just how difficult it can be to achieve this goal. If it was an easy goal, it would be done already.
For organizations that have already realized the maximum level of efficiency they are likely to achieve, if you're still reeling from overwhelming project lists but you're dedicating 50% of your staff time to the workload, it's time to request new resources, adjustments to the project list or consider strategic outsourcing to accomplish goals.
I don't know of a lot of fields that have to readjust priorities and operations in as significant a way as CIO have to adjust on an annual basis. This list is just the five issues that strike me as increasingly important as we move into 2012.
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at email@example.com.