Technology challenges threaten to overwhelm CIOs

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For chief information officers (CIOs), mobile, cloud and analytics technologies are priorities for the coming year, according to a recent Gartner survey of 2,000 CIOs (see related story).

As implementation of these technologies proceeds, they will transform the way enterprises communicate. In particular, as mobile and cloud converge, the traditional communications infrastructure will be transformed beyond recognition. Legacy systems will no longer be able to serve the needs of enterprises.

In addition, the flood of data now coming into the enterprise, through machine-to-machine communications as well as other data communications technologies, will require enterprises to implement advanced analytics to make sense of that data. Otherwise, the data flood will be of little business value.

If managed properly, these new technologies can benefit enterprises and boost productivity. Handled poorly, they can be highly disruptive. A full 70 percent of CIOs cited mobile technologies as the most disruptive force in the enterprise.

The survey also found that the role of CIOs is changing, from their traditional IT roles to digital "scouts" looking for digital opportunities and harvesting value.

In fact, 67 percent have significant leadership responsibilities outside of IT, with only 33 percent having no other such responsibilities. In a similar 2008 survey, half of the CIOs polled had no responsibilities outside of IT.

Almost one-fifth of CIOs act as their enterprise's chief digital officer, which includes championing the digital vision for the business.

As Dave Aron, vice president and Gartner Fellow, commented: "Adapting to, and leading, in the digital world requires doing things differently, yet in ways consistent with the demands of digital technologies. CIOs need to make the case that mainstream emerging mobile, big data, social and cloud technologies justify revisiting IT budget and investment levels."

Despite these technology and responsibility challenges, CIOs have not seen their IT budgets grow. In 2013, CIOs anticipate a 0.5 percent cut in their IT budgets.

Thus, CIOs are faced with greater demands with the same level of resources--a recipe for disaster. CIOs need to assert themselves at executive-level board meetings and let those executives know what IT challenges the enterprise is facing--as well as what the consequences will be, particularly to the bottom line, if nothing is done.--Fred