2013: The Year of the CIO

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CIOs stand at a crossroads as we head into 2013. Many of them have a choice to make. They can retreat to the back-office or reach out to business units and began to partner with them on customer-facing innovation and revenue generation. Many CIOs I know will choose to breakout of the IT department mindset - or already have. However, they have a lot of changes to make to cultivate the relationships and acquire the talent and speed they need to succeed.

I’m optimistic that 2013 will be the year that CIOs rise up to reestablish their relevancy, stake their claim as strategic business advisors and lay to rest speculation that they don’t have what it takes to innovate and that they should focus on costs management only. Following are the steps that CIOs need to take next year to stay in the transformation game:

Refocus on Architecture and Architects

For the past seven years CIOs have steadily outsourced their software building capabilities. They need to bring some of the strategic skills back inside, especially enterprise and system architecture skills, so they can evaluate the impacts of the hundreds of proposals to add capabilities and what’s needed to integrate it all together. They should also assemble small and nimble groups of architects and designers who can explore emerging and disruptive technologies such as localization, data visualization, apps, and gamification, in addition to SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud). CIOs also need to be more aggressive in adopting agile processes and leveraging demos.

March Mobile Forward

Smart mobile platforms provide a foundation for incredible innovations. However, we are still very early in the journey. Based on our research, only 12% of users currently purchase merchandise with their smartphones. However, 45% anticipate they will increase this activity in the next two years. Mobile is unexplored terrain for many companies. Here’s an opportunity for CIOs to start fresh with business units on an exciting challenge that will payoff.

Help Social Media Grow Up

Many CMOs plunged headfirst into social media without first setting up comprehensive listening tools to effectively monitor customer conversations or to empower employees to serve as brand ambassadors over social networks. Now, as social media moves from infancy into adolescence, CMOs are striving to establish social media governance so they can extract more value from their social media investments. CIOs happen to excel in this area. CIOs should partner with CMOs to institute social media monitoring and analysis systems, which will enable them to regain some influence over their company’s social media strategies.

Take an Outside-in Approach to Big Data

Companies have grown accustomed to relying on internal data to make business decisions. But, Big Data’s really big potential lies in marrying outside and inside data to unearth hidden pathways to business opportunities. CIOs can combine core enterprise data - orders, products, customers, financials, etc. - with new sources coming from marketers, governments, social media, mobile devices and sensors—to create new value. To capitalize on these opportunities, CIOs will need to adopt new hardware and software technologies to manage new volumes and types of data and build teams with the new skills required to manage and interpret the data.

Capitalize on SMAC as a Catalyst

Vendors are pushing businesses to adopt all four of the trendiest technologies (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) whether they truly need them to achieve their business goals or not. Business leaders desperately need guidance on whether or not SMAC makes sense for them and to what extent. CIOs should see internal confusion over SMAC as an opportunity to help their companies evaluate which components of the SMAC suite of services will advance the company’s mission. Then, CIOs should step up and provide the pieces of SMAC that will meet business demands as well as ones that fall outside of SMAC hype. Not every company needs SMAC with the same urgency.

Reach for the Clouds

Public cloud computing can free IT executives from the day-to-day grind of server management and enable them to focus on issues that matter to the business. Aside from cloud-based infrastructure - CPU access, storage and network bandwidth - and a few successful but functionally narrow business applications in the cloud, the public cloud is still small but the potential is vast. CIOs can ride the next major wave that will come when large scale enterprise software and industry-specific players have a majority of their customers in cloud installations. Then, enterprises can capitalize on the user-by-user, month-by-month payment schemes this will (finally) put into place for the core, run-the-business apps which will bring the scalable power promised by the cloud.

What do you think lies ahead for the CIO in 2013? What would you add to the list?

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