The role identity of the modern CIO is not straightforward. It can be many things depending on the transformational path of the organisation. This helps explain the broad mix of personalities and orientations of the profession. Some CIOs are boxed in as technologists: others see themselves as sociologists. But there are two facts that don’t change: the domain of managed IT is 'owned' by the CIO and is home to a broad range of approaches to what IT ‘is’.
The CIO (or CTO or CDO or whichever title is favoured) is the primary change agent of the senior leadership team. Because it is the central task of the CIO to manage the social era challenge to the mass production era business structure. This challenge primarily comes in the form of various species of SaaS.
It takes significant courage to commit yourself wholeheartedly to an uncertain future. This, by the way, is why we have senior leadership teams in the first place.
The complications sequent to a widespread adoption of these applications is the subject of a paper (Shadow IT and Consumerization Complicate a Crowded Enterprise Collaboration Market) by Brian Riggs, Principal Enterprise Analyst for Ovum:
“…an increasing number of communications applications that were initially designed for consumer use now have business-grade versions or have been added to suites of business applications. As a result, they are no longer simply consumer applications, but viable business applications that may or may not conform to IT policies and may or may not be formally embraced by IT.”
Consumer grade applications mix together with business grade products using a similar deployment model as well as established local applications upgrading to provide enterprise level capability. Riggs focuses on the communication and collaboration domain of digital tools in his paper and identifies the central problem driving the increasingly large proportion of enterprise technology that sits outside of managed IT:
“… end users having difficulty with company-provided conferencing tools tend to turn to consumer-grade alternatives”
In other words, what is supported by the formal technology stack is of decreasing use to employees. No one likes to be on the end of a losing fight and Riggs offers three approaches to CIOs contemplating the best response to consumerisation:
- Work with consultant and professional services organisations to advise enterprises on best practices.
- Partner with third parties to provide IT-friendly alternatives to the communications and collaboration applications entering the enterprise.
- Deliver IT-friendly alternatives to the communications and collaboration applications entering the enterprise.
Riggs uses the term ‘shadow IT’ to identify the consumer grade applications being used across the enterprise. He defines shadow IT as:
“… technology used inside businesses without the knowledge or explicit approval of the IT Department”
Language is important. Because these applications are entering the enterprise in increasingly large numbers, and in user response to underperforming or absent managed IT capability, 'shadow' is probably inaccurate. Other analysts use words such as ‘business-led IT’ or ‘shallow IT’. From the enterprise perspective, it is important to make the effort to bring the entire work community together. Because the widespread use of non-managed IT applications is evidence of a much wider problem.
Next: The heart of the problem for senior leaders navigating change
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