Future of the IT Organisation Pt 1

We’re constantly told the world of IT is changing, but when hasn’t that been the case?

Cloud, Digital Transformation, AI, IoT and Big Data are simply the latest in a series of revolutions that have been the lifeblood of Information Technology since the industry began.

However, some issues appear to have been around for a while. Ten years ago, CIO Insight published a list of trends to watch in 2007.  Among them were forecasts that “The division between IT and business will diminish,” and “CIOs strive to be strategic.”

Last month, on the Cloud Industry Forum’s BrightTalk channel, Searchlight Consulting hosted a discussion on the future of the IT department in the age of Cloud and Digital. We were joined by ex Britvic CIO and visiting professor at Birmingham City University, Rob Pritchard, Nick Skelsey, IT Director Europe, Harding Retail and Liberty Global/Virgin Media’s Director of Performance and Metrics, Nick Good.  And some of the strongest messages to emerge from the event were the need for IT and business strategies to align, and for the potential for business-savvy IT leaders to take an even greater role in shaping the future of their companies.

So, if the IT industry recognised this need in 2007, what’s new? And is it any more achievable today than it was a decade ago?

I think the key word here is “potential.” Ten years ago, the iPhone had just been launched and the impact that mobile technology and connectivity would bring to the world, particularly to the way business and customers would interact together, were yet to be realised. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud had been available less than a year, Microsoft’s Azure was still to come.  Big Data and the IoT were still in their infancy, and traditional office culture, with its siloed inflexibility, was only just starting to shift.

Today, all these technologies have reached maturity and digital transformation has become a keystone of growth, encompassing the whole of a business from back-end to customer-facing. We’ve worked with companies like Costa Coffee and leading online sports retailer Wiggle on major transformative programmes which have added value to the way they work in a multitude of different ways. The opportunities business technology offers can shape and enhance every aspect of business. And it is this that makes the future of the IT function so exciting.

CIOs now have the opportunity to step out of their traditional silo and make their mark on the whole organisation. To provide a strategic view of the entire business, proactively lead change and make the IT department a beacon for innovation throughout the company. And in doing so, they will shift the IT function from being a cost centre to a value centre. Harding Retail’s Nick Skelsey described the CIO of today as a curator, and I think it’s a pertinent one. The contribution a tech-and-business savvy board member can make in bringing a whole range of cross-functional factors together to add value is increasingly important. It’s a step change from the old concept of CIO as a broker, whose function was merely transactional, implementing specific changes as and when needed.

Of course, there are challenges. And there are responses to those challenges. There are new skills to be mastered, new alliances to make and new ways of approaching the role of CIO. We’ll be examining the challenges, their implications, and possible responses in my next blog. And then, we’ll look at the role of CIO as leader and how that’s set to change in future.

If you’d like to explore more of our discussion with Nick, Nick and Rob on the Impact of Cloud and Digital on the Future of the IT Organisation, please visit: Cloud Industry Forum Future of IT Webinar

Bryan OakFuture of the IT Organisation Pt 1