Are we living in a post-CIO world?

Watching Apple’s rollout of the ‘new iPad’ and Tim Cook’s talk of the “Post-PC World”, I have to wonder if even more has changed without any bold announcements. Specifically, the dependence of the enterprise on application development/support, business analysis, and many other services of the IT organization. I guess the question is, “Are we living in a Post-CIO World?”

The evidence

Maybe the question is a little broad and you’re skeptical, but consider these points before you walk away:

  • Isn’t the business able to determine many of its own process and data needs instead of relying on teams of coding engineers to build and support custom applications? Didn’t SalesForce prove that?
  • Does a carefully designed UI that takes two years to roll out offer any advantage over an app, thrown together quickly but ready for use in days or weeks?
  • Does a collaborative world of social media end the need for teams of people to maintain the Exchange Server?

Sure, there’s provocation in my questions, but there is a fundamental shift happening that is often called ‘consumerization’ but is something much bigger than consumer products in work environments. It is also much bigger than Apple versus Microsoft.

The shift

We’re seeing the very gradual shift of IT’s role to a data-focused organization and away from applications.

It has become more important to manage web access in many companies than to support email, for decades the cornerstone of communication. Business process is defined and managed by end users before anything can be automated. There’s a quick and dirty way to model almost everything without heavy lifting from technologists.

We’re not in a post-CIO world. We have many reasons to continue to maintain legacy applications, but I would suggest that we’re headed to a new place where IT’s role is far more focused on data architecture and events than applications. This will be a healthy step forward in agility for an enterprise trying to stay ahead of the competition.


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Categories: Data Analytics / Big Data, Disciplines, Information Technology, Mobility, Social / Collaboration, Strategy

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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12 Comments on “Are we living in a post-CIO world?”

  1. Craig Leppan
    March 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Reblogged this on Ovations Group Blog and commented:
    Nice comment by Chris on consumer tech vs CIO technology

  2. March 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    For CIO’s to be relevant in organisations facing dynamic change, they will need to apply a market in approach to technology applied in their respective organisations.
    They must be able to access platforms that integrate dynamic roles, rules, relationships & workflows; wheree business users can self organise and adapt to market change.
    This requires a Dynamic Network Architecture that leverages the legacy systems of various network partners.
    This requires the CEO’s buy in, a clear company vision and a good crisis. Management tends to change for what they might lose, rather than what they might gain.

  3. Tom Bellinson
    March 9, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    Since the computer was invented, people began envisioning tools that would fulfill various needs without programming. Many attempts have been made and all have fallen short. The problem has always been about complexity. The more flexible / adaptable a system is, the more complex it becomes.

    Two things have emerged that seem to move us closer to that dream: 1) standard architectures lie SOA and other web services, which allow individual software systems to communicate easily with other web based systems, and 2) the “app store.” Once upon a time (about five years ago), buying software was difficult and expensive. Now, you can download an application, try it out, and delete it if you don’t like it, or buy it if you do.

    As you point out, this makes the process of automating business activities a lot easier. However, the CIO role marries strategic business knowledge with technical knowledge. Organizations that have a CIO benefit from being able to make the right investments in technology and having a coherent deployment strategy. Even at $1.99 per user, the cost of deploying the wrong applications is high. Without proper guidance, this new “quick buying cycle” can get an organization into trouble even faster. The CIO role, like everyone else’s, is changing, but I don’t think it’s going away.

  4. Glen Gage
    March 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Hey Chris, thanks for being provacative! My humble but awfully long opinions follow.

    The rapid changes in technology make the role of CIO/CTO/whatever you may want to call having a person/single accountable to help manage it even more important. Business people can make their own investments and are held accountable to the bottom line so why bother with a CFO, as an example?

    From the comment and your article it seems that you do appreciate common data, one version of the truth–focus on the data architecture. You just want to be able to eliminate the applications bottleneck. OK, so what does that require?

    A common data architecture resulting in everyone accessing and contributing to ‘one version of the truth’ is probably going to be best provided through data services–those services that enforce standard rules for master and transactional data. These services will be reused many times, in fact they must be. So even if ALL processing could somehow be implemented by independant business units or individual users (it can’t and this dream has been promised since I got in the business in the 1970s) there is still a need for real honest to goodness engineers to make it happen.

    The idea of Service Oriented Architecture (in my opinion, not necessarily in the opinions of suppliers who will sell you a full suite of middleware products, each product needing expensive expertise to implement and manage it) is to provide services that mirror business capabilities. These services communicate via messages (events, which you like). The ‘application’ or process is then a product of how the services work together given events in the real world. This doesn’t happen with out engineers, however.

    In your article you ask whether people should wait 2 years for a new UI or just implement a throw away. Its not either or. If the new UI is something incredible like Windows or Mouse or Touch Screen that will revolutionize the way people interact with technology then go for it, but also do the throw aways if you can afford it. In addition to things like SOA the industry has, since the 1970s, promoted separating the presentation, business logic, and data layers when implementing systems. Sure, discard the presentation layer (UI) and also let a thousand flowers bloom (BYOD). The business needs to decide where technology needs to be engineered for the long term and where it can afford to discard after 6 months.

    I may explain my opinion better in a short article on Event Driven SOA:—Get-Over-it-But-Get-With-It—Event-Driven-SOA&id=4921537

    You also mention social media and how it may/is usurping email. Again, this change supports having a really sharp CIO/CTO/Whatever. I’m not overly proud of this article but I think it may communicate why I think it is important:—A-Conversation-Between-The-CEO-And-The-CIO&id=5021475

    Where to invest in reuse and where to build throw aways? The best way I know to get to these really important and thorny issues is thorugh principles:

    My opinion in a nut shell:

    Still need the CIO and the host of technical folks
    SOA (the concept, not necessarily the vendor offerings) is the way to go for implementation
    Event Driven is the way to drive analysis
    User driven development = throw away, so use it wisely, and there are a lot of ‘interim’ solutions that drag on for years
    Let the business decide (in an informed way) what is core and needs engineering for the long term and what is expendable.

    • March 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks for the great comments, Glen. I agree that the CIO is still needed, maybe even more now. We can’t continue to look at IT as a source for application development when there’s so much more they can be doing to serve data to support business processes. I think we’re on the same page.

  5. Mark Eastwood
    March 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    I think rather than arguing against a CIO you’re arguing FOR a CIO. Oh the details of the role may change with the times and the challenges today are the opportunities tomorrow but that doesn’t mean the concept is dead. On the contrary, without a CIO the data and infrastructure that feeds SalesForce (in your example) wouldn’t exist. Apps are useful but they are not yet a substitute for more powerful applications. That doesn’t argue for the large monolithic applications your proposing to be dead. Again I point back to your example of SalesForce, its an instance of such an engineered application that happens to be hosted and provides limited capability via an app.
    Its indeed a brave new world, but business users are still not able to truly thrown together effective business processes without IT. IT can enable a framework that provides significant freedom and configurability, aka SalesForce, but think shift of responsibility and rapid change in response to business needs more than operating without IT.

  6. March 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Mark, I was actually arguing for the CIO, you’re right. I still see many companies committing budget to custom application development in the classic style. It surprises me how many, in fact. Not everyone is ready to accept the new reality.

  7. March 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Either the CIO role must die as we know it, or the Business must die. CIOs aren’t wired to make a Business successful, and in most cases jeopardize the livelihood of the Business. Businesses are almost always successful in spite of their CIOs, and almost never successful because of them. Rarely is there a CIO that is able to marry strategy with technology; that’s because most CIOs are glorified manages with very little experience with technology or strategy.

    • Tom Bellinson
      March 19, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

      Steve, while I completely sympathize with your view that many CIO’s fill the role in name only, to say that they rarely properly fulfill their purpose is a bit of an exaggeration. As a former CIO who networked with other fellow CIO’s along the way, I can attest that there are many good ones that really understand both business strategy and technology. They are able to guide their organizations to make prudent investments and manage those projects such that they lead to successful outcomes. Outcomes that would be unlikely without their guidance.

  8. April 2, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    You say “We’re seeing the very gradual shift of IT’s role to a data-focused organization and away from applications”
    Now… what does the “I” in “CIO” stand for? Oh yes…

  9. April 2, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    Exactly…at some point it became the Chief Functionality Officer. If history had gone down differently, IT might have been just about data.

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