Is your CIO a juggler, and does your CEO have the high-level viewpoint of a stilt walker? If so, the cloud could be about to change it all, says silicon.com editor Steve Ranger.
CEOs on motorbikes, dancing girls and deeply unfunny comedy routines: I've seen some very strange ways to open trade shows and conferences in the last few years of reporting on technology.
But, rather unusually, CA Technologies' choice of pre-keynote entertainment at its CA World event seemed to me to almost verge on the profound.
The company kicked off its customer conference in Las Vegas last night with Cirque du Soleil performers, and it's very tempting for me to view such entertainment as a vision of the state of enterprise IT.
Could the clown, juggling while balancing on a giant ball, represent the harassed and overworked CIO? If so, perhaps the mime with an iPad is a living metaphor, representing the difficulty the IT department has in communicating its ideas to the rest of the business? And in which case, should we interpret the exotic stilt walker as the CEO, peering at the business from a perch way up high, but unable to see the details that matter?
No doubt none of this was intended by CA Technologies when it booked the performers, but it struck me that they did fit rather elegantly with the content of the first session at the event - a discussion that explored the consequences of cloud computing, and touched on how the cloud is reinventing the familiar roles of CIO, CEO and IT professional.
Cloud is not a fad but a reality, driven by the economic realities of doing more with less, in the view of CA Technologies' CEO Bill McCracken.
McCracken highlighted the tension between what IT can deliver and what the business wants, and the strain the disparity can create - one of the reasons why the CIO has been the shortest-tenured member of the C-suite.
Can the cloud, by automating and replacing some of the more basic IT jobs, free up the CIO from juggling and give them the chance to add some real business value?
Fellow CA World keynoter, former US government CIO and now Harvard Fellow Vivek Kundra has been a driving force in getting the US government to adopt cloud technologies to consolidate its IT, after discovering that the number of government datacentres had grown from 432 to over 2,000 within a decade - and that average utilisation rates were around 27 per cent.
As well as changing the way government procures technology, he argues, the advent of cloud is going to change the role of the IT professional, forcing IT organisations to look again at how they add value to the business.
The impact of the cloud is going to be an ongoing debate, but one thing is for sure, it's a debate that goes beyond the standard discussion of the benefits of one technology over another.
If the cloud truly is as disruptive as is being claimed, has your organisation started thinking through how it might change the jobs of some of its key executives?
Steve Ranger has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.