CIO: Quo vadis? Cost Center or Business Enabler? #tsy13

On tuesday I’ve discussed the future role of IT and the CIO. Today we are in the biggest change (Disruptive IT) the IT industry has experienced since its inception. This shift suggests a direct impact on the CIO and thus also to the IT departments. Dr. No and cost center were yesterday. The CIO as a business enabler is required who, together with its IT staff, builds new business models as a strategic partner to the CEO and the departments and established itself as a Business Driver.

Disruptive IT: Cloud, Big Data and Co. to turn everything upside down

Cloud Computing, Big Data, Mobility and Collaboration are the four disruptive technologies, which today cater for a big quake and challenge CIOs. The expectations and demands of the management and departments continue to grow, employees become independent and purchase IT services past by the IT department (shadow IT), because the IT cannot provide in sufficient time or quality. Nobody should say the job of a CIO was simple, but currently it is the way to hell, everyone likes to waive.

But that’s the situation. And who continue to hug to the status quo, sooner or later will remain on the track. Because the business side cannot afford to tread water. And they will find their ways and means to get what they need. If they are not already on the way.

Panel: The Future Role of CIOs: Managing Costs or Enabling Business?

Within the T-Systems Symposium Stefanie Kemp (IT Governance, RWE), Prof. Dr. Michael Müller-Wünsch (CIO, Lekkerland Gruppe), Dr. Hans-Joachim Popp (CIO, Deutsches Luft- und Raumfahrtzentrum), Philipp Erler (CIO, Zalando) and Thomas Spreitzer (Chief Marketing Officer, T-Systems) discussed the future of the CIO. Is he a cost manager or a innovation driver?

Although it was basically an exciting panel discussion. However, it was, as expected, monodirectional since there were only CIOs represented in the panel and the counterpart of the CEO was missing. This was probably the reason why there was no or just a little self-criticism voiced by the CIOs.

Nevertheless, one could see that the CIOs were aware of what to expect. Hans-Joachim Popp ​​by DLR made clear that existing business models are influenced by new technologies and thereby it becomes more exhausting for the CIO in the future. He also criticized the fact that not everyone who can build a new business model is able to understand the critical processes behind it. Zalando CIO Philipp Erler joined and considerably made ​​clear that the operation of an Excel sheet does not necessarily cover the skills to control a process. That is a fact I can confirm. Just because an employee can use an iPhone or a SaaS application, he is not able to decide on major IT services for the enterprise. Furthermore Erler explained the concept of the prioritization round at Zalando. So, a department should question itself whether it is actually worth to go the own way and path by the IT, if the request was not approved. This is a possible remedy against the shadow IT. The question remains, whether this is of interest to the employees in the departments. Eventually, in 2012 about 25 percent of the IT budget was being managed outside the IT department, according to Gartner.

Lekkerland CIO Michael Müller-Wünsch sees it as a crucial factor that CIOs get also the temporal scope to act as a business enabler. To show and evidence the own right to exist is important, but also difficult. However, the business side and the IT at Lekkerland working together actively. T-Systems CMO Thomas Spreitzer admitted that the marketing looks readily across the challenges of the CIO. The main thing: as fast as can be. However, he also criticized the nitpicking. IT departments should more focus on the rapid prototyping instead of the requirements specification.

RWE IT governance lead Stefanie Kemp asked the question whether IT has actually run after every trend or should it better focus on specific areas rather that the company actually help. To this end she sees the need for a commodity IT as well as a differentiating IT within the enterprise. So that part of IT, which keeps things running and the part that ensures innovation. Kemp also made clear that departments about her can go its own way. But in the end they should also stand straight for the pile of fragments when the integration into existing systems, etc. does not work. Furthermore, Kemp still sees a lot of homework to do within the business so that IT can become a business enabler.

CIO vs. Business: Communication is the silver bullet

Summarizing the problems that were addressed during the panel by the CIOs, you can certainly ask the question of how companies operate nowadays. At the end of the day it was to understand that seemingly both sides sit protected in their ivory towers and do not really talk to each other. The reality is of course different. But for both sides, life would be easier if they exchange information with each other transparently and at eye level. Here also the role model will become increasingly important to clearly define the responsibilities in the future.

Conclusion: The role of the CIO will not be easier in the future. Quite the contrary. But when he and the business side work as partners and actively communicate with each other and to agree to go the same way, it becomes easier for both sides.