The role of the CIO is ever changing. Not only do CIOs tend to shift roles every few years, but they are now also struggling to remain relevant in the new IT era. According to an article by Niel Nickolaisen, Chief Information Officer for Western Governors University, as few as three years ago there was “more control over the selection and implementation of information in an organization.” Nowadays, employees can implement software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service pretty much any time they would like to. This leads to the growing power of IT as well as the diminishing power of the CIO. The fact of the matter is, according to Nickolaisen, “shadow IT” may cause the role of the CIO to become completely irrelevant:
In the old days, shadow IT was when marketing, accounting or supply chain management hired a few IT people to do the IT tasks that never quite got onto our list of priorities. With the new shadow IT, who really needs an IT organization at all? After all, we are typically over-stretched and seen as hard to work with and uncommunicative. What, then, is an IT leader to do? In short, I need to make sure that I am never irrelevant. I do that by delivering on two imperatives: enabling strategy and achieving operational excellence.
Nickolaisen goes on to note that these two requirements are interdependent. This means, for example, that if a team is not able to deliver, they will most likely not be trusted with strategy. If they are not trusted by their peers with strategic initiatives, exclusion will lead to a lack of direction when it comes to effort and innovation.
The key to success, according to Nickolaisen, is to make you and your team irreplaceable. Clearly, this is much easier said than done. One must approach projects and relationships with the goal of strategic delivery in mind. One way Nickolaisen advises approaching relationships strategically is to learn about their needs. With their needs in mind, find a way to prove you that you are the best value for the services they demand. This will also improve overall relationships.
Finally, Nickolaisen recommends focusing the way you deal with vendors. It is important to make sure that vendors do not sell directly to the CFO, CEO, CMO, or anyone else within the organization. The connection between vendors and CIOs will lead to increased operational excellence. Furthermore, it will cement the importance of the role of CIO.
If nothing else, you must make your peers want to work with you. By going around and discussing needs, you not only remind employees that they need a CIO, but you make them want you to be that CIO. The role of the CIO is evolving along with the growth of technology. The simple truth is that being a CIO does not mean today what it meant a few short years ago. However, this does not mean CIOs must give up. It just means that goals and strategies must change as well.