On The CIO’s Top Challenges

There are many challenges that CIO's are facing in today's cloudy, jargony, swirling maelstrom of Information Technology. But isn't there something missing in the conversation that totally supersedes these challenges?

There was an article I read recently that purported to analyze the top problems faced by CIOs in today’s cloudy, jargony, big data-y, swirling maelstrom of “Digital” and Information Technology.

To be sure, the list was well-reasoned. Subject areas like Cloud, Big Data, ROI, Security and Innovation made the list. But the article fails from the outset when it supposes that the CIO should, for example, be solving for Big Data problems. CIO’s aren’t simple IT leaders. They’re business leaders.

I mean, sure, we need to know about all the cloudy things and all the latest buzz-worthy phrases like ‘Big Data’ but isn’t there something that totally supersedes this? Isn’t there one thing that so eclipses everything else that the CIO does that it can’t be overstated how immensely important it is?

Shouldn’t the CIO, as a business leader, understand the business and be part of driving business strategy? Isn’t his primary, overriding challenge to comprehend the business problems he is trying to solve with technology? Shouldn’t his conversations start with people and services and process and strategy and revenue instead of tools and APIs and widgets and gonkulators? I’ll go ahead and answer for you to all of the above: YES.

Look, technology comes and goes. Products and tools and frameworks and vendors are ephemeral. There are fads and trends and cycles. The Top 10 CIO Challenges list from 10 years ago is entirely different. You know what isn’t different? The CIO’s need to first and foremost understand what it is he is trying to solve, for whom, and why. When he gets that mostly right, the question of ‘with what’ (i.e. the tech, tooling, vendor) follows naturally and much more easily.

I’m not a CIO. Far be it from me to question actual CIOs on what they believe their challenges are and the mission they are undertaking. No wait. I take that back. I’m absolutely questioning actual CIOs on what they believe their challenges are and the mission they are undertaking.

Before anyone composes a list of technology hurdles for the CIO to overcome, my not so humble offering is that anything one could put on that list is entirely superseded by the primacy of being business-centric. If you don’t get that part right, the list of challenges is entirely irrelevant.