How the 3Cs are Redefining the CIO

In the past, life for a CIO was hard work but not an impossible undertaking. Today, however, things are getting more and more difficult faster and faster. But, for those who love a challenge, the CIO is the best seat in the house.

The main challenges CIOs face can be summed up with the 3Cs:

  • Consumerization: every business user is also a consumer so they expect Web2.0 style apps to be delivered to any and every device including PCs, Macs, iPads or Smartphones just like at home.

  • cloud Apps: enable business users to sidestep IT using something I have been calling the Stealth cloud.

  • Compliance: an increasingly regulated environment for almost every industry, which covers everything from data security to SOX compliance.

These “3Cs” are causing so many things in the world of the CIO to change. The technology world is going through a paradigm shift, just as it does every 10 years or so, but this time the CIOs relationship with the business is different. Technology is a critical resource for every company, just as electricity was in the 1930s. Back then they had Electricity Directors. Not so today. How long until the CIO’s role directing the provision of IT resource is defunct for similar reasons?

It has been said that CIO stands for “Career is Over” rather than “Chief Information Officer.” But what should the “I” in CIO stand for:

  • Chief Innovation Officer – enabling innovation powered by IT inevitably?

  • Chief Investment Officer – a more commercial and procurement focus than technology focus?

  • Chief Integration Officer – stitching together third party apps?

  • Chief Insight Officer – moving from data to information to insights?

It is probably a little piece of all of them.

There has been a gentle shift in power over the last few years. Business buyers are taking the driving seat on software purchases with the IT department becoming another name for “IT Purchasing.”

That trend is accelerating and the CIO has some strongly engrained “techie” prejudices to overcome. Therefore they need to start changing their game now before it is impossible to make the shift with any level of credibility. So the CIO should be spending less time less worrying about how to provide IT to the business and more time being the advisor about what benefits the business can glean from technology.

So, against this backdrop, let’s explore the how the 3Cs are affecting the world of the CIO in more detail:


The collective sales and marketing departments of consumer electronics companies around the world are driving up consumer anticipation for the latest technical wizardry with promises that it will change the world, save more time than ever, make you more attractive to the opposite sex and, gulp, have unparalleled battery life!

So what is the issue? These are consumer devices targeting consumers, right?


The line between consumer and business was finally swept away by Apple. Apple has finally managed to penetrate the business by providing devices that are the electronic equivalent to jewelry; items which are highly desirable; that consumers by with their own money and take to work. Once inside the building, these consumers turned business people demand that IT make their device connect to the corporate network and play well with everything there in.

Business users are consumers and, today, they get a better technology experience at home than at work. A staggering 74% of PCs in the workplace are still running WindowsXP. But, outside of the workplace, a plethora of PC devices of different shapes and sizes and an even bigger range of smartphones are being launched daily. They vary in form factor and increasingly Macs are being found in briefcases and on desks in more and more industries outside of media and advertising (Apple’s traditional stronghold). The consequence for IT departments is at best more expectations management for their end-users customers; at worst an increasing variety of technology to integrate and support. (Based on experience probably a headache-inducing mix of both!)


As far back as 2008, when I was presenting at the Microsoft World Partner Conference, Steve Ballmer’s keynote told people to take the cloud seriously. Now we have the public cloud, private cloud, G-cloud, the stealth cloud plus Microsoft has launched a concept called the personal cloud. Where is all that corporate data going when it is synced in these clouds? What data protection or corporate security policies will be broken?

So much as been written about the cloud but mostly from a technical perspective; security, cost savings, virtualization, plus the long running debate (inside of IT anyway)of “Is it really a cloud app if it is not multi-tenant?”

These are all valuable discussions but if we look from the CIO’s perspective there are wider issues. The CIO is being looked to by the rest of the executive team for advice and guidance on how IT can help improve their operation in terms of information, integration, innovation, investment and insight. The cloud is a key part of that strategy. Not just for cost-saving reasons which are good, or for Green reasons which are laudable, but, because of the opportunities that it opens up; including the ability to liberate non-office-based staff, provide better business continuity and address new markets more easily and quickly, all at lower cost.

Recent research by outsourcing advisory company, TPI, shows that only five percent of CIOs have a cloud strategy. An even more worrying number is a further 20 percent said they did not have the resources to even develop one!

This is short sighted at best. This is doing the easy stuff; playing with technology and fixing today’s problems, rather than the hard stuff; sitting down with a blank sheet and thinking realistically about the future. And a huge number of business people are using cloud services oblivious to the security, reputation and compliance risk that they are exposing their organizations to. Most are doing it without the advice, support or authority of thee CIO. Hence, we’ve been calling it the Stealth cloud — an extension of the ever-popular Shadow IT but, like the blood-sucking Vampire it may come to be, one that doesn’t cast a shadow.