The views and opinions expressed are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
The Disintermediation of the CIO
The role of the CIO has reached its zenith. Over the next several years, we will see the title deconstruct. Just as the baby boomers held on to “Data Processing Director” concepts as long as they could, a few of us diehard GenXers will grasp on to the CIO title until our retirement. Millenials and Gen Z will jump on the chance to blaze new trails and transform our profession to reflect the rapidly changing world we live in. There will be less concern with title and more focus on the depth of impact on business and on remaining relevant.
The transition began the day the CIO title was adopted. Moore’s Law became the norm and change a constant. As a profession, we metamorphosized through a variety of stages ranging from pure technical manager to today’s C-level executive. The changes ahead are not for lack of skill or talent, but are at best reflective — at worst reactive — to cultural and technological changes.
What makes this transition more profound is that the majority of CIOs never made it to the C-suite. They allowed themselves to get stuck someplace in between. The opportunity for them to close the gap is gone..
Empowered internal and external consumers and the ubiquitous nature of technology are key drivers for the change. We are seeing the democratization of data, information, and knowledge. CIOs can no longer control technology proliferation nor cap or meter its utilization. Service desks are becoming a relic of the past. Millennials grew up in a self-service age and have expectation of the same. The average consumer has 30+ applications on their smartphone and few if any come with call center support. Think cloud, blockchain, mobile, big data, consumerization, and social supported by disruptors. There is diminishing need for traditional IT.
Granted, there will always be a need for technical expertise. IT will revert back to pure technical play. IT divisions will become cost centers again and will fade into the background. IT will be focused on providing safe networks and connections and can be summed up as “interoperability and security.” Staff size and budgets will shrink and investment cut by 50 percent or more. Data centers will go lights-out and most companies will either convert the space for document storage or sell them outright. The data center is a financial albatross ripe for partnering. “Shadow IT” will become partners, not adversaries. It is not the old centralization versus decentralization, but pure and simple disintermediation.
So where are today’s CIOs headed? We are already seeing some directional signs. I was contacted twice this year by recruiters who were trolling for chief digital officers (CDO). In both cases, the existing CIOs were bypassed and would report to the CDO. While I think CDO has legs and will stick, it is not the final destination, but perhaps an intermediate layover. Just as Uber disrupted transformation, IT is being disrupted. Uber is an intermediate step for the next wave in transportation. We are beginning to see self-driving vehicles and the proliferation of drones for transport.
I don’t have a savvy prediction on how you spell the CIO title five years from now. What I am confident in is that we need to change and adapt or report to those that do. We must evolve and continuously retool ourselves and focus heavily on innovation, entrepreneurship, and value creation. We must be able to see the future and collaborate with partners, developing strategic solutions grounded in the practical realities of taking the best care of our patients. We must be the one trusted advisor who can see across the business enterprise and facilitate change at 10 times the speed of Moore’s Law.
Finally, we can’t forget that our primary talent must remain focused on being experts in the people business. When consultants say people, process, and technology, it is really people (85 percent), process (10 percent), and technology (5 percent). This is how we add value and remain relevant. Retool, yet never forget that we are in the people business and always keep the patient in the center of all we do. This is not the age of the stodgy hotel; this is the age of AirBnB.
If we don’t shape the future, others will change it for us and leave us behind.