What can CIOs expect in 2015?

2015 appearing behind brown paperIt has been another challenging year for CIOs; there has been continued speculation about whether there is a long-term need for the CIO role and plenty of headlines about other areas of the business becoming more involved in technology decisions and holding their own IT budgets. Will 2015 see more of the same or will there be new topics to concern CIOs? Here are my predictions for the key CIO themes we will see in the next 12 months.

The phoney war between the CIO and CMO will continue

The CIO/CMO relationship has probably received more coverage than any other CIO-related issue during the course of the year. Many people would have you believe that the two roles are pitched against each other in a battle to lead the organisation’s digital future. And then there is the growing obsession with how much CMOs are spending on technology and what this means for the CIO role – usually interpreted as a sign that the CIO is diminishing in importance and that the CMO is becoming the organisation’s new technology leader.

CMOs do not want to take over IT, have a CIO reporting to them or make key technology decisions without the advice, support and involvement of their IT function. They just want an IT function that can work alongside them, helping to identify technologies and solutions that will help them do their jobs. They want IT to manage the vendors, ensure security and service levels. But they just need it to be done in a way that meets the needs of the digital world, which is not the same way IT has worked in the past.

There is no war between the CIO and CMO. In fact, there are many good examples of CIOs and CMOs that work well together. But that will not stop more articles from being written on the subject during 2015. It makes good headlines and attracts attention for those making the claims. And while CIOs and IT functions continue to work in a ‘pre-digital’ way there will always be ammunition for those that want to continue the phoney war.

More CEOs will look for a different type of CIO

In one of my first blogs of 2014, New Year, new CIO role?, I discussed how organisations were beginning to look for a different type of CIO and I gave five examples of the type of things that CEOs say when they describe the new style of technology leader they are looking for. This trend will continue in 2015. CEOs that get digital know that the CIO has a key role to play in shaping and leading the digital transformation of their organisation. But they also know that it has to be the right type of CIO with different skills and experience and a different way of working to the traditional CIO of the last 20 -30 years.

In Meet the digital CIO, I described this new style CIO and whilst their numbers are still relatively low, they are growing. And they are growing in response to the demand from organisations that see the value of a business-focused technology leader that can help set the overall direction for the business and guide the technology investments made by other executives.

CEOs are under pressure to move their business into the digital world. Just recently Ladbrokes announced that its CEO is to step down after criticism about the organisation’s digital performance. More CEOs are likely to follow if they do not get to grips with digital. And so more of them will look to their CIO for help in leading the transformation and that will need to be a different type of CIO if they are to make a success of digital.

More CIOs will come from non-IT backgrounds

The CIO role is becoming less technical; CIOs still need to understand technology but not to the depth that they have done in the past. They need to understand what technology is available, what it can do and, more importantly, how it can be used to create value for the organisation. The CIO is no longer the senior techie; they are a business leader who is responsible for technology, not pure a technology leader. They need to sound and act like a business leader, take a business-focused approach to leading the IT function and contribute to issues and subjects beyond technology.

To play this role CIOs need broader experience. They need to have spent time outside of the IT function delivering a P&L and winning and retaining customers. And they also need different skills; the new style of CIO is a networker, an influencer and a collaborator. The business focused approach to technology and the need for broader skills and experience opens the role up to people outside of the IT function who are already business leaders that understand technology. And we will see more of them in CIO roles in 2015.

More CIOs will adopt the Technology & Service Broker model …

The traditional service provider model for IT with its focus on building, supporting and maintaining infrastructure, databases and systems is out-of-date. The IT function no longer needs to be a service provider; the digital business needs IT to be a partner that provides and manages its access to external services. And instead of reacting to requests from the rest of the business the CIO and IT function need to be working alongside the rest of the business, as a proactive partner looking for opportunities to use technology to create new business models, products and services and enhance the customer experience.

The Technology and Service Broker model for IT, which is described in detail in Disrupt IT, is gaining momentum; an increasing number of CIOs are adopting this model to ensure they and their functions can meet the needs of the digital business.

… and those that don’t will be bypassed or replaced

The service provider model was designed for a different era, a time before social, mobile and cloud existed and when businesses used technology to control, automate and improve their existing operations. Organisations are now using technology to transform their business models and to create entirely new products and services. It is happening now and it will happen with or without the IT function. Those CIOs that refuse to make the change from a technology and service provider to a technology and service broker will find it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of the rest of the business and will be bypassed or replaced altogether.


So, 2015 will be another challenging year for the CIO role. But with those challenges comes opportunity for those CIOs that can adapt to the needs of the digital business. They need to be bold and brave to make the changes to their role and the IT function. If they can do this then 2015 could be a great year but if they cannot then it could be their last year as a CIO.

If you are a CIO that wants to reposition their own role for digital or who wants to create an IT function that meets the needs of a digital business then please contact me or visit my website, axin.co.uk.


  1. “CMOs do not want to take over IT”. True. It’s just a fake war created by those who wish to grab headlines.

    The Digital Officer will take the strategic transformation responsibilities of the CIO who remains mainly a hands on IT role. Still, with the Cloud, the role of the CIO is diminishing.
    CIOs will still come from IT backgrounds while the Digital Officer would, more or less, have to come from an Enterprise Architect role because has to integrate technology developments in the overall present and target enterprise landscape.

    The CIOs may try to adopt the Service broker model but with little success taking into account, the competition from the public Cloud. In time, this would be outsourced to best of breed suppliers.

    “… and those that don’t will be bypassed or replaced”.
    CIOs will still play a niche role, for a while. In the long run though, the Digital Officer will take over the responsibility for the evolution to the digital enterprise.


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