Is CIO’s Job Becoming Tougher?

What’s your experience as a CIO? Is your job becoming more difficult? There are some that believe it is – and probably not for all the reasons you thought.

Samuel Greengard’s book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.He tackled the issue of increasing difficulty for CIOs at CIOinsight.com. As he observed, change used to come slowly in the technology field, but now it seems to be happening almost overnight.

Hardware and software, he said, used to have shelf lifes of years or a decade or more. (Sounds like a newspaper group I used to work for – it refused to upgrade an antiquated design software because it would have meant replacing even more antiquated layout terminals).

Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd said that antiquated equipment continues to be a major headache for CIOs in spite of the push for forward looking technology and hardware. He said in his Oracle OpenWorld keynote last fall, “Being a CIO is the toughest job out there.”

According to coverage of the speech, Hurd said 75 percent of enterprise apps are more than 20 years old. A further problem is most of the apps are unique to each company. That leaves little, if any, opportunity for updating because they aren’t standards based.

The problem with those legacy apps, Hurd added is their strong appetite for IT budgets. He said over 80 percent of IT spending is dedicated toward maintaining these legacy apps rather than innovating.

At the same event that Hurd spoke at, Xerox CIO Stephen Little admitted his company has problems with legacy apps. He joked that the “legacy market is not the most dynamic market.” He added that Xerox is in the midst of connecting over 150 disparate human resources and payroll systems around the globe. The company is moving to a cloud-based model to replace its many fragmented legacy apps. Those legacy apps, for example, can explain why a company of Xerox’s size has trouble, for example, knowing its exact number of employees.

It was a problem that dogged the State of CT for many years with diverse computer systems in various state agencies not being able to talk with each other. The state could, at one point, only estimate the number of employees it had without a physical hard count.

One further challenge being faced by CIOs is the cloud. Sure, everybody is aware of it, but there’s one challenge some have overlooked. There are no longer dedicated server areas that are controlled by the IT department. The cloud has changed all of that.

Writer Joel Shore made that observation at the Enterprise CIO Forum. He said, “Seeing these assets every day and knowing that they are under your total control certainly provides a high degree of comfort. Cloud has changed all that, requiring deeper interaction with users than ever before, or even responding to so-called rogue users that went out and implemented their own departmental computing solutions – the dreaded Shadow IT.”

As Greengard points out, “CIOs are faced with shadow IT, BYOD, plug-in clouds and an array of other tools and systems that often present challenges that would make herding cats seem simple. It’s safe to say that things have gotten a whole lot more complicated.”

In their book, Confessions of a Successful CIO: How the Best CIOs Tackle Their Toughest Business Challenges, Dan Roberts and Brian Watson say CIOs face the challenge of being greater partners in a company’s governance. “Those IT leaders who fail to break out of the order-taker, utility manager mold will, simply put, be looking for a new job,” they say.

Greengard has this advice for CIOs facing new challenges in their positions. He says they need to envision being an orchestra conductor to get the disparate parts to work together. He advises, “This may mean embedding IT staff on business teams or business representatives on IT teams. It may require peering into processes in entirely new ways and understanding what really happens in stores, plants and other facilities.”

 

Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.