Making the CIO a hero again

superCIOladySpare a thought for the CIO. Maybe that means you. There was a time when who the CIO was, and what they did, was clear. He or she was the person who used ‘IT alchemy’ to create business benefits from technology. They were tech people with business brains. Visionaries, futurists and fixers, the CIO was the IT presence in the boardroom. But that was then.

The dawning of the new era of IT – and all the innovation that comes with it – has changed the way people view the role. Now the CIO must harness the power these new advances theoretically bring while still delivering benefits to the business and managing the expectations of those who expect a magic wand, rather than a strategy.

The CIO must be a problem solver, with strategic and operational skills, expert in business-centred thinking with expertise in complex investment programs. In short, everyone expects CIOs to reinvent themselves to deliver the much-needed and widely anticipated value that the digital era is supposed to represent. And now, there is a new challenge that was perhaps harder to anticipate.

From heroes to…?

As recently as last year CIOs were being encouraged to escape the techie trap and become ‘business heroes’. CIOs failing to master this transformation were effectively resigning themselves to tactical, technical firefighting rather than retaining their status as a strategic board level player.

For CIOs, cementing hero status depends on becoming indispensible. After all, who else can evaluate, source and set up new technologies and systems while continuing  to deliver value from what is already there? Who is responsible for ensuring the current infrastructures integrate with the modern tooling – and all of this with fewer budget dollars and resources? And then there’s the new element – the Kryptonite that could threaten the survival of the IT superhero…

Say hello to the CDO

The  arrival of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) in an organization could be problematic for the CIO. For here is a person whose job description overlaps with the CIO on many fronts. They will have a budget, and a clear strategy about how to take their organization into the digital age. So who gets to say what that future will look like? Clearly the beleaguered CIO faces challenges on all fronts – summarised here as 4 Ds:

1. Digitalization
Mobile, BYOD, big data, and the ever increasing demands of the end user are now must-haves. To quote one example, the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) claim that mobile phone banking transactions have doubled in a year. With customers using their devices to carry out 5.7 million transactions per day, the pressure is on to deliver a flawless – and fast – service.

2. Data
The proliferation of technical tooling for sales, marketing and corporate outreach has driven vast quantities of data – the lifeblood of companies chasing the revenue growth that underpins every strategy.  McKinsey estimates that most US companies of more than 1000 employees in the US economy were storing at least 200 terabytes of digital information. It’s not called ‘big’ data for nothing. To get the most from this massive resource, organizations must interrogate it for the key take-outs that will deliver the business advantage. While most of the data is held on mainframes, much of the newer material, ie that relating to social media behaviors, will be stored on more disparate platforms. Someone must co-ordinate this storage and deliver the business value.

3. Dissatisfaction
As company budgets become more focused on revenue-producing areas, rather than IT operations and infrastructure, the internal dynamic for IT will change. Marketing automation systems, enhanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and Content Management Systems (CMS) will enjoy greater prominence. Their data must be accessible and usable to stakeholders, executives and incumbent systems. The gap between the end-user expectation and the ability to provide the required solution grows as – with each passing year – users grow ever more demanding, and vocal, in terms of timeframes and functionality.

4. Debt
Budgets and resources don’t always keep up with complexity. Equally, backlogs can increase in parallel with what Gartner call ‘IT debt’. There are many reasons for the staggering 29% increase IT debt: Poor investment, ill-advised prioritization, tooling, process, skills, architectural complexity, IT strategy are all in the mix. There is also the unfortunate perception that the platform, rather than the access mechanism, is a problem and that innovation can only be delivered by brand new technology, rather than by improving or augmenting current, business-critical applications with the right solution or products.

If a CIO finds themselves in an unwanted cycle of tackling ‘maintenance’ tasks and fire-fighting, their  first instinct, when faced with a fresh technology and/or business paradigm shift appears to be to schedule a ‘future overhaul/rewrite’ of technological assets. But rewriting or re-engineering working systems costs time, money and is fraught with risk. Just ask the UK NHS . A pragmatic, low-risk approach that resolves a chunk of these challenges in ‘one hit’ is needed here. A deeper understanding of the scope of the problem, coupled with a pragmatic approach to fixing processes, without jeopardizing existing services or adding to the backlog, is a great way of identifying that approach. So – what is the solution?

We can help

Finding smarter, innovative ways of implementing and delivering IT modernization, is part of our DNA. Micro Focus enables CIOs – and CDOs, for that matter – to keep up with the pace of technology and change, while maximizing the value of their core IT assets. Digitizing current frameworks brings innovation, enabling established technology to work efficiently with new. The key phrase here is modernization. It’s where what works – and most right-thinking IT managers would be loath to touch – is re-invented to deliver what the business needs today. Enterprise application modernization ensures the lights stay on today while organizations plan their tomorrows.

It’s what turns aging infrastructures into innovation-ready IT – and CIOs into heroes. If you’re ready to get more of what you need from what you already have, pay us a visit.


Kishore Devarakonda

Micro Focus VP of Strategic Projects

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