With the Calendar Turned to 2016, Will 'CIO' Become a Part of History?


I’m not going out on a limb by predicting that cloud computing and Big Data may be two of your priorities from both a time and budget standpoint in 2016. Enterprises have been collecting and analyzing Big Data, and migrating applications out of their data centers to the cloud for years now. What will be in new in 2016 is how these two trends will converge to transform the role and responsibilities of the CIO. In fact, the changes will be so significant that CIOs may want to consider ordering new business cards featuring a new title: “Chief Productivity Officer.”

The CIO’s role has actually been steadily evolving from “Keeper of IT Systems” who focused primarily on maintaining the IT infrastructure and operations to a provider of business services to all parts of the organization. IT is more relevant when it can focus on improving business processes and helping all employees be more productive and innovative, not on upgrades or server patching. IT can have a broad and very visible impact on an organization’s ability to meet its business goals. 

For example, IT can lead the creation and rollout of an online portal for employees to do everything from submit IT help desk requests, request a contract review from legal, to select healthcare benefits.

This is why the CIO is the logical person to assume the role of CPO. The combination of an increasing adoption of cloud computing, and analyzing Big Data to help the enterprise reach its broad business objectives, will enable the CIO-turned-CPO to lead these new service-oriented initiatives.

The use of cloud in the enterprise continues to grow. According to the new Verizon Enterprise Solutions’ “2016 State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud” report, 84 percent of businesses surveyed said their cloud use has increased in the past year, and half of enterprises say they will use cloud for at least 75% of their workloads by 2018. According to the report, cloud computing adoption has become so commonplace that while it still plays a significant role in delivering a competitive advantage, “using cloud is now just table stakes.” (Source: Verizon Enterprise)

One of the main factors driving enterprises to migrate to the cloud is the need to manage and analyze their ever-growing volumes of information. How important has Big Data become to enterprises? For the answer, just look at the industry that has sprung up to support their efforts to use Big Data analysis to predict future customer behaviors, trends and outcomes. IDC forecasts the Big Data technology and services market will grow at a 26.4% compound annual growth rate to $41.5 billion through 2018, or about six times the growth rate of the overall information technology market! (Source: IDC)

Additionally, while collecting and analyzing Big Data remains a priority, and conducting that analysis requires specialized skills and techniques. Organizations can gain additional benefit faster by also examining “Small Data” to provide managers with insights into what projects consume the majority of their teams’ time and efforts, and where productivity levels can be improved.

This is a lesson we learned first-hand at ServiceNow. A few years ago, in an effort to make the process for requesting and fulfilling a purchase order more efficient, collecting and analyzing Small Data to revealed the company used 30,000 emails to process 2,000 requests – that’s 15 emails per request – but had no transparency. There was no way to see how quickly one request progressed or which departments were driving the workload.

So in 2013 we built a workflow to automate the process. Now a request is routed immediately to the appropriate departments and personnel, and everything is recorded in the single system of engagement. The purchasing manager can see the state of all the work, re-distribute the work as needed, and has an audit trail in the system. As a result, the cycle time – from initial request to PO – dropped from five days to two.

By providing these kinds of services, IT will be more relevant, and therefore, more visible, to the broader business when it does not have to devote time and resources to making upgrades to systems and applications, patching servers, and other tasks the cloud provider is responsible for. This leaves IT able to focus on business processes and running systems better. They can help sales, marketing, HR, legal, finance, customer service and other departments be more efficient and effective. IT can have a broad impact on its organization’s ability to meet its business goals.

I predict that in 2016, CIOs will come to the realization that they are becoming service providers. Those services are not limited to IT, but encompass all service-oriented business units such as HR, finance and legal. These services have become so critical to how business gets done that it will forever change the role and responsibilities of the CIO, making the position more visible and influential enterprise-wide. For this reason, CIOs may want to consider changing their titles to Chief Productivity Officer to move away from the IT-focused nature of CIO and better represent the fact they’re overseeing the selection and delivery of these services.

Change is always scary at first, but this is a development CIOs should embrace.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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