Is the role of CIO still essential to business?

2nd Jan 2014 | 14:15

Is the role of CIO still essential to business?

Reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated

Is the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) under threat, or merely evolving? Factors such as the rise of cloud computing and shifting budgeting responsibilities to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) have been cited as two factors casting uncertainty over the position's future.

However, the role of the CIO is far from over, according to Kantar CIO Matt Graham-Hyde, who clears up misconceptions around the topic in his book 'The Essential CIO'. TechRadar Pro caught up with the author to discuss the changing nature of the role, the myths surrounding its demise and what the typical day of a modern-day CIO involves.

TechRadarPro: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Matt Graham-Hyde: I am currently Chief Information Officer for Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP and a leading insights and consultancy group.

As CIO, I am responsible for the technology strategy and execution across the 100 countries where Kantar's 28,500 employees work on behalf of the majority of Fortune 500 companies.

I have had various CIO roles over the last 15 years in major international businesses. Prior to joining Kantar, I was chief information officer at United Business Media, the global publishing and events business, and technology director at United Broadcasting and Entertainment during the early transition to digital in broadcasting in the UK.

I founded and operated for several years a technology consultancy specialising in re-engineering IT in mergers and acquisitions. I was born in London, and have travelled and worked extensively around the globe.

TRP: What does your typical day involve?

MGH: I am not sure what a typical day is. If I am in London I would usually be in the office for around 7:30 as it's quiet here, but still time to keep things connected in Asia.

The days are a constant juggling act of keeping the day-to-day moving forward and running smoothly, while pushing strategy and strategic initiatives. Asia global organisation, even though I will leave the office around 18:30, there is still a lot going on in the Americas.

Most days are filled with meetings and calls. Emails and reports tend to get done outside of the traditional core hours.

I like to get to a couple of aerobics or circuit classes a week, these are a great way of both staying fit and giving a break from the work pressures.

TRP: What's your book 'The Essential CIO' about?

MGH: The core premise is that Amazon and Google have changed the way we do business forever with the cloud. That change is so fundamental that we must change our company's ideas, perceptions and behaviours to survive as businesses.

This is a technology driven change, and there is a fundamental reinvention of information technology taking place being driven by cloud computing, mobile devices, social media and data analytics.

I believe this change cycle is different and groundbreaking. There have been many previous change cycles in IT but they have been incremental evolutionary changes. In the book, I explore the changes we are seeing, that make me question the foundational principles of information technology in business, and the need to either find, or invent a new blueprint for the business of corporate IT.

The cloud is enterprise ready, according to Graham-Hyde

TRP: What were your motivations for writing your book 'The Essential CIO'?

MGH: There have been a lot of articles and books about the limited career of the CIO and renaming the role to Career Is Over. However, while there is a need for transformational change, I don't believe the role of the CIO is over, quite the opposite.

There are a lot of books and papers written by people who aren't currently in a CIO role preaching about what the role and the changes to the role should be. I believe in walking in someone's shoes before you start telling them what to do. As I hadn't found a book written by a working CIO, trying to deal with the real job challenges created by the technical revolution taking place; I thought it might be useful if someone did, so why not me?

It occurred to me that other executives and people working in IT might also find it helpful. So I decided to put it all into this book.

TRP: What's the biggest myth within the CIO industry?

MGH: The biggest myth is that cloud computing is not enterprise ready and is insecure and that you put your business at risk by using cloud computing. There is still an amazing number of IT people who believe this and traditional vendors peddling the myth.

TRP: Why has technology changed the way we must do business?

MGH: The key change is cloud computing and the unpredictable implications of this technology shift on wider areas of business and indeed society. The common definition of 'cloud computing' is that the following characteristics have to be in place. Shared resources, available in a self-service model with elastic capacity paid for on an as used basis. Cloud computing has been driven in the main, by the way Amazon in particular, reinvented the computing consumption model for themselves and then drove this into first the consumer and then the business world.

What has become apparent is that cloud computing along with its enabling impact on social media, mobile data and data analytics, basically changes everything. The big idea if you like, is that 'the everything', is not just everything in IT, but everything in business too.

For the all 'C' level executives, this change is well under way. However, the traditional business executive may not grasp the wider implications of cloud technology on their business and the potential to impact their business in unpredictable ways.

Some of the disruption cloud technologies have been bringing to traditional businesses have been around a while, but have been viewed as consumer rather than business capabilities. That picture has now completely changed and with that change, a new challenge is emerging for businesses beyond their IT function.

That challenge for the executives of businesses comes from 'cloud computing' creating new business models and new business opportunities, as well as new competitors and a new way of thinking about organisation design, agility, effectiveness and innovation.

TRP: How is the CIO role changing?

MGH: In this revolutionary time, CEOs, and in particular CMOs, are under massive market pressure from their customer base to be more digitally relevant and have faster product developers. As the world moves at digital speed, all businesses will become technology businesses.

The CIO's role in many organisations has been one of governance, cost control, and business systems development. Web development and, in certain industries, a growing role in product development.

All businesses will be totally dependent, not just on their internet presence, but their mobile presence and their use of sensors and other new technologies, and the ability to manipulate and understand vast quantities of data: to be customer relevant in real time.

The new CIO will need to be at the centre of this change, balancing managing costs with securing revenue, managing security while having easy access everywhere to systems controls and compliance. It is no longer the case where one outweighs the other. The world of corporate/business IT is now the post-digital consumer world of technology driving business and behaviour.

TRP: What are your plans for 2014?

MGH: I suppose in simple terms, my plan in 2014 is to continue to implement the ideas in 'The Essential CIO' and see what challenges are presented and how to overcome them. This is the most important activity for any CIO.

  • Matt Graham-Hyde is the CIO of Kantar and has over 15 years' experience as a CIO in major international businesses. Matt is the author of "The Essential CIO" (£14.99 PanomaPress) which is available from Amazon now
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