Cloud Computing and CIO Leadership

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

On May 22, 2013, CIOs speaking at a symposium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came to a breakthrough. While complaining about threats to their company’s IT infrastructures, CIOs also took ownership for the underlying cause of the problem — a failure to be responsive to their organizations’ business needs.

Public cloud applications are useful business tools. In a survey of 1100 business and technology executives conduced by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, over half of the IT executives disclosed that they would be spending more on both private and public clouds. Public clouds were the most important source of corporate innovation according to them. 

Historically, public clouds have been a problem for IT leaders. Moving company data outside of a carefully managed network could lead to security and access issues. At the same time, it also could create redundant stores of data that may or may not be synchronized; this could create confusion and complexity for end users. Clouds are sexy, too. They’re new and different from the legacy systems that many CIOs continue to manage and internally sell.

With these benefits, shadow IT installations popped up in many companies, creating a leadership problem for CIOs. In recognition of this issue, more CIOs are moving out of denial about the cloud and reasserting themselves in the process of managing their company’s cloud applications. CIOs have the skills to strategically manage cloud transitions. After all, they know how to measure the revenue impact of new technologies and to estimate the impact of changing company policies. They’re also skilled at collecting and reporting on technology-based information in a way that can influence decision makers.

The cloud has changed the role of the CIO. No longer just the head tech at a company, being a CIO in the cloud age means being an orchestrator of business services. As CIOs partner with business units at their companies, they move from maintaining and installing technology to finding solutions to business problems and applying technology to solve them. This new partnership between CIOs and business has the potential to fully realize the benefits of information technology as it becomes an integral part of every business unit rather than just being a bolted-on tool.