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Cloud Computing and the Changing Role of the CIO
9 July 2014

 The CIO in the Cloud

In a just published report by the McKinsey Global Institute, “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” cloud is listed as one of 12 technologies with significant potential to drive economic impact and disruption by 2025.

The report said “the cloud is enabling the explosive growth of Internet based services from searching to streaming media to offline storage of personal data, as well as background processing capabilities which enable mobile devices to do things like respond to commands and ask for directions”.

The cloud also improves the economics of IT and provides greater flexibility and responsiveness.  The cloud can also facilitate new business models, such as catering for a much more mobile workforce.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger writing for the Wall Street Journal remembers attending a CIO Symposium at MIT in 2009 which was “all about the cloud” when the cloud was still a new concept CIO’s were getting their heads around.  Four years later Ron Miller attended a similar conference at MIT and discovered “IT dinosaurs in Cambridge”.  In a subsequent article Miller said “I didn’t expect IT pros at an MIT conference to have such old-fashioned notions of cloud computing”.  He thought a technology conference at MIT would be full of cutting edge and cool discussions but in one instance during a session on evolving cloud agenda, he saw a lot of regression instead.  He heard IT executives dismiss cloud with tired old arguments, ones he thought we were long past.  This is a risky position for a CIO to be in.

On the flip side many CIOs are in the cloud, not necessarily on cloud nine as the cloud is presenting tough challenges along with the benefits, such as duplication of services, creation of data silos which are difficult to make available to enterprise-wide applications and legal issues with regard to the security of enterprise data.

The cloud can provide a decrease in IT costs and an increase in efficiency and opportunities to for business growth and the CIO is qualified and in a prime position to lead the cloud strategy due to their knowledge of technology.  The CIO must however, be able to effectively communicate the positives and negatives of cloud computing to the C-suite.

Technology analyst Eric Lindquist described the profile of the CIO – “The CIO is also a security expert, as well as a department-to-department ambassador, and is always ready to listen to even the most out there technology idea. The CIO knows more about business than the CEO and more about digital marketing than the CMO, and takes the lead in retraining the current IT staff and nurturing the kid in the mailroom, who is the social network wizard. And, oh yeah, the email system never goes down, the data is always real time, and the data center is all virtualized.”

“If all that sounds like a tall order, it is. But it is the profile that most resembles the CIO, which emerged from the 10th Annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. After sitting through keynotes and panels . . . I was left with the image of the current CIO role as an increasingly powerful and maybe an increasingly impossible job.”