How Cloud Computing Changes the Role of CIO

Written by Zeeshan Naseh

 The growing impetus to move hardware and software technology to the cloud means change for everyone in corporate IT departments. No job will see more change than that of the chief information officers.

The cloud might ultimately offer CIOs the chance to outsource as much of their IT functions as has been possible since Electronic Data Systems Corp. pioneered the notion of farming out corporate technology functions in the 1960s.

Hardware, software and connectivity can increasingly be provided and run by somebody else. And with employees increasingly getting the green light to use their own mobile phones, tablets and laptops on corporate networks, it’s sometimes not even necessary for enterprises to provide the end devices that people use to work.

All of which raises the question: Will the cloud make CIOs and technology chiefs obsolete?

It’s not the first time issues like this have come up for those who run corporate technology operations. In 2003, the Harvard Business Review opined that IT “doesn’t matter.”

Cloud Turns CIO to Revenue Generation

A decade of experience since then suggests otherwise. In the same vein, CIOs will be more than mere order takers for cloud service providers in the coming years.

The cloud may enable CIOs to shift their roles from the day-to-day grunt work of ensuring technology works and cutting costs to guiding IT into new roles, such as helping generate revenue. Rather than worrying about getting the latest version of Windows deployed on everybody’s desktops, CIOs can focus on more important areas, such as high-end software development and business analytics.

Marketing is one area where CIOs will be spending more time going forward. With new technologies emerging for gathering data on consumers’ tastes and Big Data applications for crunching those numbers, CIOs’ roles will increasingly include helping marketing chiefs sort through and understand what the data flood means and how to use it to create personalized buying for customers.

In retail, for instance, some applications are beginning to discern when shoppers enter stores and send promotions to them based on their buying habits.

But what of the IT workers whose jobs the cloud will impact? Won’t they be out of work?

To be sure, IT departments will be able to do more with less, and in some cases that will mean cost rationalizations in employment. But as cloud computing has taken hold, the evidence to date suggests that instead of losing out, corporate IT employees are increasingly seeing gains in the form of doing higher-end work, while leaving more menial tasks in somebody else’s hands.

For instance, the job of adding server capacity for given software applications is increasingly being done automatically.  But while losing that part of their job description, some server administrators are getting just as much work or more in new roles working with clients or corporate departments outside of IT.

Big Key: A Platform That Makes Cloud Computing More Accessible

That being said, the chief benefits of cloud computing for CIOs and IT workers – essentially, freeing them to focus on work that moves companies toward financial goals – will be realized only when the process of assembling and scaling private clouds is a far faster, easier and more affordable than it has been to date.

Rather than months of engineering time, configuring a secure, private cloud should take minutes. Clouds should be scalable – up or down, according to current needs – on-demand and with the same speed. And clouds should not tether enterprises indefinitely to legacy vendors who will forever be dictating new terms. Enterprises need a solution that allows them to dictate their own terms.

As both Gartner and Forrester analysts have said, what the CIO needs in the new world of cloud computing is a cloud management platform that rolls those qualities together in one, affordable package.

When that solution is available, the CIO will truly be transformed, and he will matter more than ever.