Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Evolving Role of the CIO

My undergraduate degrees and MBA were earned at the NYU Stern School of Business. At freshman orientation, more years ago than I care to remember, I met a few people who turned out to be lifelong friends. One of them, Steve, and I have been involved with the school. and each other,  in one way or another since graduation. We've been active in the alumni association for years and were instrumental in the formation of the Cohorts Program several years ago. Working with Dean Sally Blount-Lyon, the original program was created to connect several "cohorts" of students each with business leaders who would be available to them throughout their four years of study. Steve and I were the Battery Park Cohort and had the first group of 30 or so students which we met periodically through their college career.

Steve and I continue to support the program and this week we had the privilege of having dinner with another batch of extremely bright, articulate, curious and interesting students who fired questions at us relentlessly throughout the evening.

Knowing my career has been centered around technology, one student asked how all of the current trends have impacted the role of the CIO in business. It was a wonderful question and afforded me an opportunity to think about how best to describe the fundamental shift I see in what this senior leadership role now involves.

At one time, being the CIO meant you had reached the pinnacle of your career in technology management. You were now responsible for information technology throughout the company. You designed and operated the hardware and software systems that were used by employees in the rest of the company, and perhaps even customer systems. Your focus was on people, process and equipment. You were measured by how well you controlled your spend, service level metrics like response time, "up" time or turnaround time, and how well you could deliver projects.

Current trends like the consumerization of IT, the cloud and mobile computing have liberated the CIO from these "engine room" tasks and allowed much more focus on the business. Today, employees are very tech literate and bring their own favorite devices for use in the workplace. While this introduces some concerns, particularly around security and support, it has boosted productivity and, in many ways, reduces the support burden. With fully managed infrastructure, the CIO can shift attention from being the architect of systems to being the architect of  the enterprise, streamlining business process across functional lines. The CIO is now a true member of the C suite, helping to drive the business forward by improving products and services and increasing customer satisfaction.

Our discussion went on through dessert and we sent the students on their way. They will graduate soon and embark on their individual career journeys. I wish them much success and hope they gained some insight or had at least one takeaway from our conversation that will benefit them in the future.

I look forward to our next event and another opportunity for more stimulating interaction.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC