The CIO: broker of technology, driver of value

man_on_tight_ropeThis was one of the key messages in CA Technologies CEO Mike Gregoire’s keynote speech to around 5,000 business leaders at this year’s CA World event in April. Gregoire explained that trends such as consumerisation have shifted the focus of enterprise IT away from the size of its data centre, number of servers, etc. to the value that technology has and can add to the organisation.

And with this change in focus comes a change in what the business expects from its CIO. Gregoire encouraged CIOs to embrace these changes by reinventing their role to one where they act as a broker providing access to technology that will help drive value for their organisations.

This point was echoed during a panel session at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in May. During the session Michael Golz, Senior Vice President and CIO for SAP’s Americas division, said that CIOs should act as brokers between users and the services they need. Indeed at SAP they have gone a step further by making mobile apps developed by employees available from the company’s internal app store if they pass security checks. He described the challenge facing the IT function as being one where it must act as a broker whilst maintaining the integrity of the company’s systems.

And that is a pretty good summary of what at times can seem like an almost impossible task for CIOs and their departments: being both facilitator and gatekeeper.

In the article From guardians of technology to suppliers of capability, which was published on this site a year ago, I talked about the challenge of this dual role and the need for IT functions to add new skills in order to stay relevant in their organisations and avoid being bypassed or sidelined by shadow IT. The good news is that disruptive technologies and trends such as cloud computing and consumerisation are making the transition to “suppliers of capability” or brokers a whole lot easier. The gatekeeping or control part of IT’s role will be achieved by procuring, integrating and managing the required services and not by installing, deploying and supporting servers and mandated applications. This will require more business-facing roles and skills within the IT department.

But what does this mean for CIOs? How do they combine the roles of broker and gatekeeper in a way that at least keeps them relevant but, ideally, increases their contribution, value and importance to their organisation? A quick look at the results of the 2013 Harvey Nash CIO Survey gives a clear pointer; the importance of the CIO role is increasingly defined by the ability to influence as opposed to exerting direct control over IT decisions. The survey also highlights how much of the growth in technology will come from digital, mobile and social; all areas where the CIO shares responsibility with other executives, particularly the CMO. So we can add collaboration to influencing as being a key skill for today’s CIO.

CIOs that have or can develop this new skillset will successfully achieve the fine balance between being a broker of technology and a driver of value for their organisations, whilst ensuring the appropriate safeguards and controls are still in place to maintain the integrity, security and performance of their organisation’s systems. No mean feat.


  1. […] can read the rest of this post on The CIO Leader, my site for business-focused technology […]


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