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'Adapt or die'

Changes to the role of the CIO are inevitable and those who don't adjust to them will stifle their careers, warns Claus Mortensen, IDC Asia/Pacific's principal for emerging technology research practice.

Cloud computing and social media are two of the key changes that will cause the biggest impact on the CIO role and, according to Mortensen, most CIOs in the region are still resisting the adoption of these two trends.

"CIOs tend to think of the cloud as something against the beliefs of what IT should be," the analyst believes. "The CIO is becoming more business-centric, whether they like it or not."

Mortensen places New Zealand at the forefront of this change, ahead of other countries in the region, but adds that there is still a lot of resistance.

For Mortensen, there are a number of reasons why this is happening, including generation gaps and other issues. Perhaps one of the most important reasons, however, is the security threat that CIOs think the cloud and social media pose to their business.

"Cloud takes the technology out of IT. A lot of CIOs fear that and the security issue is a valid point," says the principal.

Additionally, there is an increased fear that the role of the CIO will diminish. This fear is even more acute in the northern part of the Asia Pacific region where, says Mortensen, "there is a lot of face to being a CIO" and those in the role fear they may end up losing importance within the company, and even seeing their department staff numbers decrease.

However, even if the fears are understandable, Mortensen says these trends represent a unique opportunity for CIOs to reinvent themselves and become even more important to business.

Mortensen adds that those who resist this change are, in fact, "missing the point".

"The cloud can empower CIOs in ways they have never been empowered before. This is a chance for CIOs to redefine their role and either you are in or you are out. If you are in, you will become more important in the business," he says.

This change to a more business-focused role will see CIOs stepping up to board level and even attending board meetings, something that, according to Mortensen, CIOs in general only do if there is a large IT spending to justify.

CIOs are also strongly resisting the adoption of social media he claims, another trend that he says is here to stay and is bound to strongly impact their role in the business. "It's a good example of something that relies on IT and is being handled by someone other than the IT department -- usually the marketing team. While that's right, to some degree, you risk losing some of its value if the data doesn't get analysed," says the analyst.

"The CIO needs to be involved to tie it all back. The CIO should be one of the reporters of social media and should be evangelising about it. If the CIO doesn't have any involvement, they risk having no control or no knowledge," he adds.

Mortensen paints a less-than-rosy picture of the region, claiming CIOs engaging with social media are an exception to the rule. "In general in the region, CIOs see this as a security threat and block social media. They need to have control otherwise it does become a security issue."

Another key trend that will redefine the role of the CIO is what IDC refers to as "socialytic applications". "Not only are they incorporating social tools but it is being merged with analytics and the IT department becomes very important because this all needs to be analysed." For the principal, this is a big opportunity for CIOs to have a real impact on how information is managed.

Slowly, CIOs are adjusting to these new trends and realising that there is no way back. Mortensen says the number of those resistant to change are still high but "it was higher last year". Change, as the analyst puts it, is unavoidable. Vera Alves

Claus Mortensen will discuss 'The Future Roles of the CIO' in his keynote address at the CIO Summit on June 27 and 28 at the SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland.


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