It used to be that IT departments chose the technology and devices employees used. They purchased volume licenses of client software like Microsoft Office and large enterprise software programs that they installed on expensive hardware in data centers they managed. In the last 10 years, however, there has been a surge in free or low cost consumer services that allow people to accomplish many of the same things as traditional enterprise software. Employees also expect to be able to use the latest smart phones and tablets, and have all their information available on any device, from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
The traditional role of the CIO as the gatekeeper of technology is changing as a result. IT departments which used to be focused solely on building and running internal infrastructure are struggling to keep up in a world where employees can use thousands of cloud services. With cloud services, even though the responsibility for running the application and provisioning hardware is transferred to the provider, the CIO is still responsible for regulatory compliance and corporate governance for enterprise data stored in the cloud. As a result, CIOs have found themselves in the unpopular position of saying no to the cloud services employees feel they need to do their jobs.
However, when you block popular cloud services like Dropbox or Skype, people are motivated to find a way around you. At the same time as IT is struggling with new expectations of what its role should be in the company. The challenge for CIOs 5-10 years ago was providing the same IT services internally with fewer resources. They looked to outsourcing and offshoring to reduce cost and improve corporate margins. Now the expectation is that IT should be actively collaborating with other areas of the company to find creative ways to grow the business. To accomplish this, CIOs will need to embrace cloud services and proactively identify new ways to enable employees to be more productive and reach their customers in a new way.
This transformation will likely result in the IT organization shrinking in terms of headcount but increasing in its influence. CIOs will need to build stronger relationship with their C-level peers and the board. Today, the majority of CIOs (77%) see partnering with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as critical to success, but far fewer CMOs (57%) agree this alignment is important. The first step of this transformation includes understanding the scope of Shadow IT usage across the organization to assess how business units are embracing new technology.
There are thousands of cloud services available and the first step is understanding which ones are being used by employees. The average company uses 545 different cloud services, each with differing levels of risk. IT departments need to assess the risks of services objectively in order to understand which ones are enterprise-ready and therefore should be promoted and supported across the organization. This exercise not only reduces overall risk and improves compliance, it can also improve collaboration. The average organization uses 19 different file sharing services. It becomes very difficult to share documents for different projects when theyre split across Box, Dropbox, Hightail, and Egnyte. Standardizing on one or two services can accelerate collaboration and the company can benefit from volume licensing compared to individual teams buying the service on a corporate credit card.
Another way to look at this shift for IT is to look at how supply chains have evolved over the last 20 years. Vertically integration has given way to an ecosystem of just-in-time parts suppliers and low cost shipping worldwide. IT should think about its mandate the same way. There is an ecosystem of cloud that must be selected and work together to drive the business forward. By focusing on the business objectives and less on the actual day to day infrastructure maintenance, the CIO becomes a much more strategic part of the business and company itself benefits.