The new CIO agenda
8 December 2015 | 0
The role of the CIO has been in a constant state of change since it arrived, which was way back in the 1990s, in the USA. The Dark Ages in ICT terms. When the title eventually crossed the Atlantic it was still regarded as too American, but made respectable by the big multinationals and the acceptance of the fact that we needed some such title for the top person spanning both ICT and business strategy support. IT director might have been OK but corporate structures were in rapid change mode anyway and the new thinking needed to be reflected in the nomenclature. When government bodies started using the CIO title it certainly became mainstream in larger organisations and certain sectors such as banking.
Some might argue that the job has been going through a process of maturing, both in the role itself and in general corporate management understanding of it. Others would suggest the job specification has never been universal, in fact that it has largely been a role description. So that simple ambiguity has always offered opportunities for debate, especially in the last decade or so and in response to change and development in technology — online consumer services, mobile and apps, notorious personal data hacks and reactions to them, cloud in all its misty variations and many others.
The currents of debate in the media and at ICT events are swirling around between the digital transformation agenda and the sobering concerns of security, while in the middle is the recognition (after all these years) that information/data is what it is all about, immediately followed by the application resources to make use of it. That in turn brings in the vital, indeed urgent, issues of better security and data governance while the still prepubescent promise of analytics is exciting interest across all corporate management. So we are seeing a positive rash of new C-titles (not always with a seat in the C-suite) like Chief Data Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Security Officer and more tentative ones like Chief Innovation Officer.
In the meantime, the distinction between the CIO and the CTO is gaining greater recognition and indeed may be the most useful in helping to define the primary emphasis of the roles in an organisation. Fin Goulding is CTO of Paddy Power, arguably one of Ireland’s outstanding successes in combining on-premises and online business. With the potential Betfair merger in the offing, that success may soon be of global significance.
“I am CTO, but I’m also the senior technology professional. The title reflects the role the company expects me to play and the emphasis, which is on innovative technology,” Goulding says. “In some ways I think the titles chosen reflect the maturity of an organisation in dealing with its ICT needs. CIOs tend generally to take responsibility for major investment in legacy systems but also in interpreting business strategy effectively in ICT terms. The CIO is effectively the bridge between technology and the business. So we have even seen CIOs with non-tech backgrounds, although of course they will have a deep understanding of applied IT in business.