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CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disrupted, Digital World?CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disrupted, Digital World?

IT leaders can take these steps today to stay relevant. Just don't confuse "checklist" with a simple fix.

Andi Mann

December 2, 2014

8 Min Read

Disruptive digital technologies are creating a new application-driven economy that is changing the way CIOs need to approach their jobs.

The evidence is all around us, as new technology drives disruption in industries like transportation (Lyft, Uber), hospitality (AirBnB, HomeAway), payments (Square, Google Wallet), and more. In this disrupted, digital world, software is eating the world and applications are fundamentally changing your business.

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These disruptions are changing how business uses technology and driving new demands on IT. CIOs can no longer be content to lead expert teams in data center design, storage management, and vendor relations; or rely on best practices like ITIL and COBIT. Indeed, these and other "old ways" of working are often the problem, not the solution.

[What role do millennial workers play in your business strategy? Read Why Millennials Aren't Disrupting The Workplace.]

The new CIO in a disrupted, digital world must leverage new ways of delivering IT services. For example, in this world, these are some of the changes you will need to embrace:

Out with the Old

In with the New


Command and control

Network effects

Remove barriers and build engagement for teams to collaborate more flexibly

Executive mandates


Draw innovation ideas and engagement from anywhere, not just the top



Deliver better, faster, and cheaper with lower cost and risk



Focus on core competence instead of on non-differentiating systems



Rapidly source new innovation and move budgets from CapEx to OpEx

On premises

Cloud services

Reduce cost and drive agility by tapping into on-demand pay-as-you-go services

Feature complete

Good enough

Reduce time from idea to product to meet market and business demands

ITIL, Six Sigma, COBIT

Lean, Agile, DevOps

Break down silos and streamline processes to speed up service delivery



Leverage 'rogue' IT as a net positive while assisting with security, governance, and skills

In-house everything

Partners and providers

Build an ecosystem that is stronger and more profitable than its parts

Tight coupling

Loose ecosystems

Enable rapid changes to capitalize faster on emerging opportunities

Locked down

Opened up

Enable new business ideas to gain pace without pro-forma roadblocks

Unfortunately, many business leaders don't trust current CIOs to lead this digital transformation. This has led to a turf war between the CIO and CMO, and the new kid on the block, the Chief Digital Office (CDO). This is a tectonic shift in the business technology landscape, with more than 500 CDOs placed in 2013 -- a number that's predicted to double in 2014.

With the right approach, however, the CIO can take the lead, at once leading the digital revolution while leveraging existing investments. But it will take a concerted effort by that leader, with a renewed focus on business outcomes and a reinvention of the CIO role, including new skills, scopes mandates, and teams.

For the CIO who decides to face this challenge head-on and take charge of the digital revolution, here's some advice:

  • Find the path your business needs to take. Document traditional and emerging competitors, businesses in adjacent markets, cases of radical disruption, external trends, and the demands coming from peers, staff, and customers. Extrapolate your path from there.

  • Map out key stakeholders and their needs. Talk with your peers and their teams, including the CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO, (CDO?), EVP Sales, EVP Products, etc., to understand what they (and you) need, what will drive business value, and how you can assist in delivering it.

  • Put digital ownership on the table. Determine with stakeholders and peers who owns digital and who contributes, understanding that you can have a great impact without owning digital, while also ensuring you're not sidelined.

  • Map new technologies and opportunities. Examine the diverse landscape of new digital technologies, and tease out opportunities where disruption and innovation can help your stakeholders. Encourage your teams to do the same.

  • Look for opportunities to push and pull. Don't assume you have all the answers, but don't assume your business peers do either. Instead, look to pull ideas from your business colleagues, and push your ideas to them. (Consider the challenge of the Pushmi-pullyu!)

  • Be prepared for human issues. As you move forward with digital, you may need new staff, teams, org structures, culture, skills, processes, and connections, while also dealing with recalcitrants, rogues, and other barriers. Perhaps most importantly, to be the new CIO your business needs to survive and thrive in this disrupted, digital world, start making a difference today -- actually, literally, today. For example:

  • Connect with business peers. Pick up a phone and call the CMO, the CFO, the CEO to talk about your digital strategy. Start to work together on this challenge, and put your stake in the ground as a valuable leader or contributor.

  • Open up to 'non-corporate' devices. You don't have to allow open slather, but realize that staffs are probably already using 'rogue' devices. So authorize connectivity for at least a selection of devices (e.g., by role or device type) and establish/enforce a policy that makes sense.

  • Find a social leader and empower them. This does not have to be an IT person, but make sure you have a knowledgeable and active social networking leader who can start immediately to establish new policies, guidelines, roles, training, and skills.

  • Analyze your own software portfolio. Without an understanding of what software and services are mission-critical, what is costing too much, what is driving differentiation, etc., you will be blindsided when (not if) you are asked to migrate non-core services to cloud.

  • Start using cloud services. This is a no-brainer, because your business is already using cloud, whether you approve or not. Have a "No cloud" rule? Kill it today, and have your team buy into a cloud service so they can start working with it and gain essential skills.

  • Create an API program. Task a small team to document internal API standards, investigate standardizing APIs and exposing microservices internally, and leveraging 3rd-party APIs for new applications. Already, 43% of enterprises have an API program, so do not be left behind.

  • Build a corporate mobile app. If you don't have a simple mobile app for internal use, find a small group to plan, build, and deploy one. It can be as basic as making the latest marketing materials available to your mobile sales teams, so you can start today.

  • Rebuild your service delivery chain. Look to adopt agile techniques and DevOps approaches throughout the lifecycle, from planning to development to test and production. Carve out a small team and/or a specific service (e.g., mobile dev) today so they can start tomorrow.

The road to digital transformation will not be simple. The digital world means adjusting to new roles and demands, embracing new technologies, and tapping into new ecosystems to drive competitive advantages. The alternative, though, is watching as old-world businesses crumble before our eyes as they fail to react to new threats and opportunities.

In today's "Application Economy," every business is becoming a technology business; every business is being rewritten by software. If you are not already working on your digital strategy, you are already being left behind. But if you start to make changes today, you can be the new CIO for the disrupted, digital world of tomorrow.

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About the Author(s)

Andi Mann

Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk

Andi Mann is an accomplished digital executive with global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. With over 30 years' experience, he is a sought-after advisor, commentator, and speaker. Andi has coauthored two books. He blogs at Andi Mann – Ubergeek and tweets as @AndiMann.

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