There are four types of personas CIOs have to play today, says Ray Wang, principal analyst of Constellation Research.
"People see you as the chief infrastructure officer. What people also see is you are moving into chief integration officer," says Wang. "But what CIOs traditionally have not done a good job with is really the other two -- the chief intelligence officer and the chief innovation officer."
The first two roles represent the 'traditional' roles of the CIOs who find their budgets reduced, but the last two, which Wang describes as 'shadow IT', might involve looking at the cloud and renegotiating contracts.
Wang says CIOs can deliver on all these four roles by upgrading their skills.
A shadow CIO-like organisation can emerge on the business side to fill the roles of chief intelligence and chief innovation officer, says Wang. CIOs can also appoint "lieutenants" with one or more of these functions.
"You make the shadow side not necessarily go away but you can empower them to be successful," says Wang. "You need to at least give the business enough rope to move two steps ahead of you, but also not cause you to be two steps behind. Which means you are working in parallel [with them]."
But doing this is not straightforward. As Wang explains, business wants simple, sexy apps that are scalable. The CIO, on the other hand, wants an environment that is safe, secure and responsible. They have to play the responsible individual, he says. "If business wins, what happens to IT? You are stuck with the bill. What if IT wins? You don't have a business."
He predicts that in the next two years, "Business will buy everything they can because they think they can." The CIO has to play "catch up just enough" and to figure out how to standardise, otherwise the business is going to fail.
"You need to help them think through the integration framework that is required. You have to help think of the data security and the data models that you have to put in place, the process models that are there and if you can help people get there, then at least they can move forward but not move so far apart from where you are."
Dealing with disruption
Wang underscores the importance of getting this balance of business skills and tech savvy as enterprises face massive and unprecedented levels of change. For instance, if a CIO had a five-year IT plan in 2008, it would have missed Facebook, the cloud, mobility and will be sitting with "really ugly architecture".
So much so that today's corporate divide is now between "those who get disruptive technology against those who don't." And this gap, he says, "is going to be huge".
He says CIOs have to think about the five technology forces that will be there in the next five years: mobile, social, cloud, big data analytics and unified communications.
A key skill is to determine which disruptive technology to adopt or not adopt. It is important, he says, to "fail fast, iterate, learn from these lessons and make sure you are okay. Don't make the same mistake and keep experimenting"
Wang recommends using the 'DEEPR' framework when making these decisions.
• D stands for discovery, figuring out what the hype is about.
• E stands for experimentation, identifying meaningful metrics and incorporating social into business models.
• E stands for evangelisation, choosing the right tools and fostering internal collaboration.
• P is for pervasiveness, scaling to match demand and securing long term funding.
• R is for realisation. "Learn those lessons, think about what you have to do about change management, how you got the executive sponsor and use this in the next project."
He says the bottom line for ICT decisions is this: "Effort must increase business value while reducing technology costs."
Meanwhile, another area CIOs need to look into is the "technology of teaming" as enterprises deploy collaboration tools.
Wang recommends the work done by the Gabriel Institute which created the technology to measure 'teaming characteristics' or the ability to connect with others to form a productive team. "It helps you pick up the right teams, helps you develop the right skills and it is based on looking at 10 scenarios.
"That is something everybody needs to take a look at," he explains. "Very, very progressive companies are doing this."
Divina Paredes is editor of CIO New Zealand. Follow her on Twitter @divinap and CIO New Zealand @cio_nz