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Is the Cloud Disrupting the CIO? By @EFeatherston | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Cloud technology, the latest disruption CIOs need to consider, takes the in-house resource paradigm and turns it on its head

Technology today seems to be moving at breakneck speeds. This speed of change is creating tectonic shifts in how businesses operate and leverage technology to achieve their goals. The convergence of key disruptive technologies (i.e. social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) is what one industry analyst refers to as the nexus of forces. Cloud is an underpinning of this nexus. How is this disruption impacting the CIO? Does the role change in face of all these forces, or is it just a continuation of what the CIO is (or should be) doing already? Let's take a deeper look at how the cloud may be changing how the CIO operates and what is needed to succeed in what seems to be a constant state of disruption.

The Role of CIO, a brief history
To understand the impact the cloud has on the role of CIO, let's first look at where the CIO role originated.

The position of CIO emerged in the 1980's. Prior to that time, IT leadership was delegated to middle management tiers, often referred to as MIS director, or simply the IT manager. These managers were the keepers of the back office systems. They owned and maintained those large technology marvels, gleaming and humming in their environmentally controlled glass rooms for all to see but not touch. During that time the MIS director usually reported to the CFO as back office systems were seen as supporting the financials of the company. In the early 1980's computers were still viewed as very fast calculators, good at crunching numbers. As the term MIS (Management Information Systems) suggests, these machines provided information to management; there was no concept of an end user, or other potential benefits to the company.

By the end of the 1980s came the PC revolution where every department within an organization was buying desktop PC's and applications for increased productivity. The ‘end-user' was born, technological chaos ensued and the MIS Director assumed more responsibility. They were asked to reign in the chaos and to provide direction and guidance. It was out of this first big technology disruption that the role of CIO started to emerge. Where it was first used is unclear. What was clear was that technology was starting to have impacts across the business. This impact started discussion that perhaps IT should be at the C-level, having the same level of influence as other key roles within a company. The CIO was born.

Rise of the Cloud and the Specter of ShadowIT
Let's fast forward to today. The role of CIO is firmly entrenched in our business and technology culture. For years, even with all the technology disruptions, the CIO remains the keeper of the technology resources. The concept of the ‘glass house' still exists, as technology resources are in house and limited by capital budget constraints. For many businesses these limitations and constraints lead to the perception (rightly or wrongly) of the CIO as ‘the person that says no'.

Cloud technology, the latest disruption CIOs need to consider, takes the in-house resource paradigm and turns it on its head. Cloud is hot, there is no arguing that point. IDC forecasts global public IT Cloud services spending to reach nearly $108B by 2017. One industry analyst expects that by 2016 the bulk of IT spend will be for the cloud. Business units are deluged with the hype. Cloud solution vendors are knocking on their doors, frequently bypassing the CIO. Business units can purchase technology solutions out of operational budgets rather than capitol. They can bypass IT and the CIO entirely and many are. Out of this chaos is born the concept of ShadowIT: technology implementations deploying without the input or even visibility of the CIO.

The Cloud Challenge for the CIO
There is a diversity of opinion as to whether ShadowIT is a boon or a bane, which is a topic for another day. Boon or bane, ShadowIT highlights the daunting challenge cloud technology is presenting to the CIO. The CIO must respond to the rapidly changing pace of the business and technology, become an innovator, be agile, and non-linear, much like a startup. The CIO must do all this while still keeping IT systems operational, stable, predictable, and secure. At first glance, these two goals seem to be in opposition. One industry analyst refers to this dichotomy as Bimodal IT suggesting that a successful CIO must evolve, embrace the dichotomy by providing both modes of operation to the business.

The ‘keeping the lights on' mode is the more traditional role and perception of the CIO.  This role is still critical to the business, the IT utility. Like electricity, water, and other utilities, the expectation is that it is always there. If you are doing that part of your job right, no one notices, they only notice when there is a disruption in service. Any CIO still in their position understands this and does it well. The downside of doing it well is the potential of not being noticed, not viewed as a partner in the business or as an innovator. The existence of ShadowIT is a symptom of this situation and comes about when the business does not perceive the CIO and IT as partners, but as utilities.

This perception is why the second mode is such a challenge. The key is to focus on the business needs, not the technology. I know, this may sound counter intuitive for a CIO, the keeper of technology, but it is critical to success of the second mode. In order to have a true seat at the table, to be viewed as a partner in the business, as an innovator, the CIO must be able to talk in the language of the business. Remember, technology is not the destination, it's the vehicle that enables you to get to the destination. The destination is providing business solutions and value to the organization. Cloud, like other technologies, may help provide the solution (leverage that disruptor by all means), but choose it because it provides value to the business, not because of the hype.

Leverage the Disruption, Make Lemonade
I think it is safe to say yes, the cloud is one of the many things disrupting not just the business, but the life and role of the CIO. This is not a good or a bad thing, it is simply a reality. Leverage those disruptions to help provide true business solutions and values. Business and technology are moving at breakneck speeds and disruption is the norm now, not the exception, and cloud is leading that charge. The successful CIO will rise to the challenge, evolve from just the keeper of technology into a true business partner within the organization. Take the lemons of cloud disruption and make lemonade.

This post is sponsored by KPMG LLP and The CIO Agenda.

KPMG LLP is a Delaware limited liability partnership and is the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. The KPMG name, logo and "cutting through complexity" are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG LLP.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

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