In praise of the CIO

Being a CIO isn’t easy. Never has been. Sure, it may have been simpler once, but business expectations of IT have changed – new services, faster delivery, greater efficiency. And as IT has become more complex, so has the CIO role. There are key two reasons behind the blurring of the boundaries of the CIO role.

Firstly, the importance of IT has grown as organizations demand innovation to maintain or improve market share. Secondly, IT projects are now so complex, and strategically significant, they have moved from being ‘just’ IT.

The alignment between what the business wants, and what it gets, has never been more important. Can one role deliver all this?

CIOs are now feeling so unempowered that the US Government have felt compelled to ringfence their role, in one sector at least. The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) increases the power – and therefore the effectiveness – of Chief Information Officers within federal agencies.

By ensuring each agency has only one CIO at the wheel, the responsibility for all IT projects belongs to one person alone. Improving accountability and visibility will help to reduce IT procurement related waste.

That’s the plan, anyway

So how is that going? Not so great, says this blog. It suggests CIOs are still not on board the exec teams delivering those make-or-break IT projects. Crucially, they lack the authority to pull the plug on any dumpster-bound IT projects, and make the important IT acquisitions.

For example, President Donald Trump wanted corporates to have full accountability for cyber-security. It was the subject of one of his first Executive Orders. A big project needs a CIO.  But then another of his Executive Orders froze the hiring of key civil service personnel, including his own CIO.

While some might see the contradictory messaging about the importance of the CIO, others will reference the US Digital Government Strategy, which aims to “deliver better digital services” through these agencies. A plan that aims to improve services while reducing costs is a big task that requires new, cross-agency thinking. It also requires leadership, as serious modernization work is required for many of these agencies.

Another problem

Richard Spires knows all about this. The former CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, he commented in this blog that many agencies – and by extension, organisations with the same IT infrastructure profile – will struggle to achieve modernization because they “do not manage inventory of software assets very well.” (A CIO would help, here.)

Spires also observes that agencies and organizations “are not going to replace tens of millions of lines of COBOL code anytime soon … but … modernize the infrastructure that stuff runs on, and move much more to the Cloud.” It needs a priority-focused agenda that keeps the lights on for now and ultimately embraces innovation. A dedicated CIO would also help with this.

Such as?

So what does the CIO actually do? How does it work when this person is given the responsibility, a clear brief and the means to achieve something really cool for the company that employs them?

Trasmediterranea Acciona is a good, real-world example of an IT project with a clear brief, achievable goals and a dedicated team to deliver them.

This is a leading Spanish corporation, working in energy, water, infrastructures, and services in more than 30 countries with a modern fleet of 25 ships. They relied on a mainframe, COBOL batch processes and CICS transactions to deliver ticketing and boarding application services.

Mainframe costs – along with the growing economic difficulties in Spain – required Trasmediterranea Acciona to reduce the operational costs that were preventing further investment in the applications and limiting the adoption of new technologies. A more versatile and flexible approach was needed.

The result?

  • IT costs reduced by 20%
  • Return on investment within 18 months
  • Modernization project completed in less than nine months
  • Time to Market improvement of 25%
  • More efficient modern appdev environment

CIOs – talk to us

Micro Focus has been helping our customers achieve their modernization goals for more than 40 years. We make legacy COBOL and mainframes do things that the original coders couldn’t possibly have imagined.

As a result, customers can build, operate, and secure IT systems that bring together current business logic and applications with emerging technologies—in essence, bridging the old and the new—to meet their increasingly complex business demands and cost pressures.

To discover more about how we enable organizations to embrace modern technologies and drive greater efficiency with the infrastructure they already have, check out our step into the Cloud campaign. To see how simple modernization strategies delivered sizable returns for Trasmediterranea Acciona, take a look at the case study.

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