Enterprise Mobility and the Evolving Role of the CIO

Enterprise Mobility and the Evolving Role of the CIO

By: Shelly Kramer
February 17, 2016

Enterprise Mobility and the Evolving Role of the CIOMobile isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a lifestyle, and it’s one that impacts us all, both for work and for play. Members of today’s workforce are communicating socially and collaborating professionally on mobile devices daily. Enterprise mobility is here to stay, fed by an increasingly BYOD-driven generation of workers.

What’s that mean for the role of the CIO? It means we’re not just talking about traditional troubleshooting anymore. There’s more to consider than ever before when it comes to navigating the IT needs of an entire company. Daunting? Perhaps. Impossible? Of course not. Let’s take a look at how the role of the CIO has evolved to accommodate—better yet, embrace—enterprise mobility.

Focus on mobility. To say the recent growth of mobile in workplaces has been robust would be an understatement. In fact, a CITRIX report found that the number of devices managed in the enterprise increased by 72 percent from 2014 to 2015—that’s an incredible jump. The CITRIX study also found that the average employee uses three-plus devices daily for work activities, and you can bet having many mobile device options is an important factor for today’s always-in-motion workforce.

Let’s be honest, though: The fact that mobile rules the business roost isn’t news to anybody who has been paying the least bit of attention. So, let’s start this discussion by simply outing the elephant in the room. So what? We all know our staff uses mobile devices regularly for work, and that the culture of business is overwhelmingly digital. But, once the fog clears from the day-to-day tasks, though, have CIOs really taken the time to examine the evolution of their role? Therein lies the ‘so what.’

We’ll get into this more in detail in a moment, but take a second now to review Figure 1 below. There’s a lot going on in the image, but it’s worth the time to dissect. Out of all the functions and platforms listed, pay special attention to the qualities CIOs must bring to the table for any of it to matter: Leadership, culture shifting, and a willingness for organizational redesign, among others. When those needs are met and new technology (read: mobile) is embraced, value is created. And value equals productivity and profit.

Adjuvi: Business 2020: The CIO's Central Role in Enabling Digital Transformation

Figure 1: Adjuvi: Business 2020: The CIO’s Central Role in Enabling Digital Transformation

From troubleshooting to the boardroom. Of course CIOs are ultimately tasked with keeping mainframes running and computers operating, but the days of that being their primary responsibility are gone. Today’s CIOs are so much more than behind the scenes troubleshooters. Rather, they’re in the boardroom making decisions. They’re acting to drive digital transformation and in-house resource optimization, not reacting to it.

Need proof? It was validated in the responses to the 14th annual CIO Survey from CIO Magazine. Here are some relevant highlights from the study:

  • Sixty-four percent of CIOs said the CEO consults with them regularly, and 44 percent report to the CEO directly. With so many key business components riding on some sort of technology to carry out and measure results (customer service, product development and marketing, for example), it only makes sense that the CIO is in on these discussions from the ground floor.
  • CIOs reported wanting responsibilities to change in three key areas: They’d like to see their functional and transformational activities decreased while their business strategy activities rise significantly. Talk about an evolution!

What it comes down to, really, is that today’s CIOs are making business decisions, not just IT decisions. When you add mobile to the mix, the key considerations for these forward-thinking C-suite executives can—must—change. After all, mobile and cloud developments come quickly, so CIOs need to be ready to act in ways that address current needs but also fit into long term company goals. It’s also entirely possible that CIOs may witness the creation of entirely new job roles within the IT space as well as the dissolution of others. (That’s where the ‘organizational redesign’ comes into play from Figure 1.)

Challenges and opportunities for CIOs. A huge opportunity for CIOs is adopting an ITaaS mentality (like I wrote about here), in which those at the tech top shift their focus from budgets and algorithms to big picture communication and excellent user experience (UX). At worst, it’s a good place to start—especially because UX is such a key component of why we keep going back to mobile in the first place. ITaaS has so much potential to positively impact today’s (and tomorrow’s) CIOs because of its far-reaching potential to disrupt business as usual.

CIOs face plenty of challenges, too. Beginning a digital transformation of any kind, especially one complicated by a variety of mobile devices, applications and platforms, can be tricky. Which path is the best? There’s no one-size-fits-all method, but it is always important to choose initial projects wisely. Don’t change anything off the bat that won’t allow you to maintain control of existing systems while new applications are in queue. And, above all, remember to make data and device security a priority.

So what do you think? Is an ITaaS mentality next on the list of requirements for an effective CIO? How do you see mobile impacting your business in the day to day and the long term? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a CIO? Is there any way you could adapt your management style to better meet the digital age? Do you even feel you need to? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

CIOs: How to Build the Best Senior Leadership Team
Why CIOs Need to Care About Mobile Business Apps
Digital Business Disrupts CIO-CEO Relationship

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site Power More. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

Image credit: GetRefe