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The CIO Agenda, 2008

What are the technology factors shaping the CIO agenda for 2008? Cost-cutting, again. More efficient technology and processes, like virtualization and third-party services. But what do these trends translate to in terms of CIOs' personal and professional goals? Two words: shape shifting.
What are the technology factors shaping the CIO agenda for 2008? Cost-cutting, again. More efficient technology and processes, like virtualization and third-party services. But what do these trends translate to in terms of CIOs' personal and professional goals? Two words: shape shifting.It seems there's very little doubt that 2008 will be a lean year -- for the economy, for businesses, and for IT budgets. That means a return to the bad old days of cost cutting and IT penny pinching.

That miserliness might not be altogether bad for CIOs, though. It coincides with a trend, actually a couple of trends, that have been brewing for some time and are ready to burst onto the business technology environment in a big way this year: software as a service (SaaS) and IT implementation at the business unit level.

Nicholas Carr, certainly not a disinterested party when it comes to IT trends, wrote in his blog recently about 2008 being the year of SaaS, and cited the blogs of a couple of other business technology observers with that same point of view. At the same time, the shift toward business-unit managers taking more responsibility for IT projects and implementations is a fact, according to InformationWeek's recent CIO Effectiveness survey of 724 CIOs, CXOs (CEOs, CFOs, and COOs), line-of-business managers, and IT managers and staff.

The (possible, probable) recession of 2008 is likely to accelerate those two trends, in tandem, as more business-unit managers look for innovative business and marketing models and SaaS appears to them as a cost-effective means to that end.

These developments are playing out together with -- indeed, accelerating -- the evolving nature of the CIO position. Forrester's CIO specialist, Bobby Cameron, prepared a report at the end of last year titled "Next Up: The 21st Century CIO." Here's a précis:


The pace of technology change -- and therefore business expectations and IT culture -- is accelerating, fueled by three things: IT's brief but turbulent history, a crush of external forces that reset IT spending and user attitudes, and the strength and resourcefulness of CIOs themselves. To survive in tomorrow's context, a CIO will need to disperse staff and capability out to business units at the same time as they acquire capacity from a supply grid. Meanwhile, the CIO must switch focus from efficiency and cost to enabling greater experimentation and iteration of new ways of competing for the firm. The best will take over their firms' operational services, run P&L lines, become COOs, and in tech services firms, aim sights on becoming CEOs.

When I interviewed Cameron late last year for a story on the evolving role of the CIO, he put it this way: "There's a fork in the road, so take it." By that rather glib remark, Cameron meant CIOs have to realize the changes happening in business technology and embrace them. "CIOs who try to hold the gate will fail," he says. "There are those who think this is another version of shadow IT and they'll try to shut it down. But it's too late, they can't shut it down."

When I said that these trends might not be altogether bad for CIOs, I meant if they acknowledge and act on them. It's incumbent on CIOs to start thinking about how to expand their roles, both within the companies they work for and in terms of their professional aspirations. That means, as Forrester's Cameron suggests, looking for different opportunities that will expand their career possibilities: operational services, more responsibilities outside of IT, and experiences running P&L lines.

That's one view of the CIO agenda for 2008. What's your view?

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