[BE] Midmarket CIO Blog

The Next Generation CIO: Business First, IT Second


A snapshot glance at today’s midmarket CIO shows more than half of these executives have served in a CIO or CIO-equivalent role for more than 10 years.

Digital transformation may be an elusive goal for the midmarket IT leader, under pressure to reduce spend yet drive business innovation and protect their companies from firewall breaches and network attacks.

But the next generation CIO may not look so starkly different from senior counterparts counting down the years until retirement.

Dave Widener

“The next generation CIO shares as much in common with the business as they do with IT,” said Dave Widener, Dir. of IT at Dead River Company.

Given the non-negotiable requirement for IT to deliver value more predictably, while building agile systems for the ever-changing business landscape, Widener suggested the modern CIO will look more like a business-facing executive and much less like the traditional back-office, core technology focused IT leadership of the past.

With Cisco estimating 50 billion connected devices globally by 2020, the Internet of Things presents both unlimited business potential and an onslaught of massive amounts of data, all of which the next generation CIO will be expected to have an answer for management and useful decision making.

IDC’s Christopher Chute, vice president of the SMB and Cloud Mobility Practice, suggests millennial CIOs are saving money for their organizations with a hybrid approach to cloud adoption. Instead of hiring more people, millennial CIOs carefully audit existing infrastructure to determine what onsite capabilities are really needed and purchase cloud services where applicable for business operations.

Within the last two decades, consumer technology has evolved at such lightening speed, so persistently in the marketplace, that CIOs in midmarket companies are challenged to affect change at the same rapid rate.

The next generation CIO will partner with their marketing counterparts to spearhead game-changing projects instead of playing catch up to the rest of the business.

The challenges of functioning as the head of IT, serving the needs of the business, will continue in the future as they have since the CIOs at the height of their careers in the late 90s managed multi-million dollar projects that delivered massive change.

Mike ONeilAdaptability will be key for the next generation CIO’s success, according to Mike O’Neil, Dir. IT at Hydradyne.

Higher expectations in regards to the speed of solutions and reactions to problems that newer technologies inherently ‘assume’ will be among their biggest challenges, O’Neil said. Shaking off the role’s perceptions as a cost center and inhibitor of progress is going to be among the next generation CIO’s biggest challenges.

Widener said the CIO role is still viable and one to which driven individuals will still aspire, but only if the individual is successfully evolving to fulfill the title’s expanding role.

“Business-acumen – strategic planning, budget management and taking an active role in understanding fundamental business drivers – is no longer a nice-to-have in the marketplace, but a fundamental requirement. The CIO of the future is a business leader first and an IT leader second. Otherwise, the role will languish and more capable roles will evolve to replace this ever-critical function of the business.”

Austin | October 15 - 17, 2017

Blair Shiver
Blair Shiver
Blair is a communications specialist with 15 years experience in the print media sector. Prior to joining Boardroom Events, she was a member of an accomplished sales team in the New York City real estate market. Much of her spare time is spent working with local and regional non-profits to help underserved children and promote sustainable development.​
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  • jimjr11

    How about this simple solution, it has worked from the main frame days through the client server metamorphosis through today. You almost never hear of well respected and successful companies outsourcing their CIO function, I dare say that in most of the successful companies the CIO reports to the CEO. What I just read above sounds like no one has ever solved this problem. There is absolutely no difference between the urgency for IT applications development and implementation in 1970 and today. The only difference is the time to market based on new technologies. Here’s how the successful solve this problem, and it doesn’t include changing the titles, hiring a CMO or letting marketing or anyone else go around IT.

    There is only one checkbook, period. When the CIO reports to the CEO and they have the right process, the CIO conducts monthly IT review meetings with all the officers, usually at Officers Staff. During annual budget and planning, the officers compete for funding with the CEO as the ultimate decision maker. I have executed this approach at every client where I have consulted on the IT problem. In thirty years I have yet to encounter a situation where IT screwed up a plan or project. In every single case the problem could be traced to the CIO not being organizationally positioned to say no to the business. EVERY SINGLE FAILING IT ORGANIZATION for twenty years!

    So, with regard to most of the above, those are trivial problems to fix once the CIO reports to the CEO. Imagine how those meetings are going to go when the CIO says to the corporate BULLY, his/her project is suspended because his approved requirement changes have used all the budget and the BULLY doesn’t have the signature authority to approve the additional spending. Now imagine that when the CEO is approving the capital IT investment, the requesting officer has to clearly demonstrate how the return on the investment will be measured. For most, if not all of my clients, these are deer-in-the-headlights requirements. Also with this approach, there is absolutely no “shadow IT”. Think this is silly, then how about IT, being dissatisfied with HR, Accounting, Facilities, benefits, then goes out and acquires their own support for these under performing SUPPORT groups. No one can imagine that, yet we think IT issues will get solved by going around IT, remember, the one and only one checkbook concept.

    I submit that all of the challenges presented above are mostly the result of a lack of leadership on the CEO’s part. A CIO should NEVER be in a position of deciding who gets what. That’s the absolute definition of IT not being leveraged for the benefit of the enterprise! Absent the CEO’s leadership, the corporate bully always gets the lion’s share.

    Jim Smith, CEO Enterprise Management Group http://www.emgc.com