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Mar 5, 201311:33 AMVan Lines

with Joe Vanden Plas

Talking SMAC: Fusion 2013 to focus on changing role of CIO

Talking SMAC: Fusion 2013 to focus on changing role of CIO

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Thematically, WTN’s Fusion 2013 might sound a bit jarring – social, mobile, analytics, and cloud, or SMAC – but the ongoing transformation of the CIO’s role in driving business performance is what’s likely to smack slow-moving technology executives right between the eyes.

This need to address this transformation will be woven in and out of programming throughout the two-day Fusion conference, which convenes Wednesday, March 6 at UW-Madison’s Fluno Center.

In 2012, Fusion concentrated on innovation and the creative use of new technology in the transformation of business. This year, Conference Chair Rick Davidson, president and CEO of the IT firm Cimphoni, joked that the focus necessarily is on managing the subsequent chaos.

“Whenever you introduce new technology, and these emerging technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing, you create a lot of disruption,” he noted.

As a result, a lot of new questions must be answered, including how much business information the executive suite wants employees to share on social media sites, how new mobile technologies offer the latest example of why business value should reign supreme over having the latest bells and whistles, and how to manage and harvest the deluge of data produced by employees, suppliers, and customers via mobile technologies.

Fusion also will address a range of strategic topics centered on how CIOs can elevate their respective organizations by factoring business value into technology decisions. In Davidson’s eyes, this sums up their future role, particularly with so much of their respective IT operations migrating to the cloud.

While the benefits of low initial investment and speed to market are obvious advantages of cloud computing, Davidson said there is a challenge in “doing the cloud,” particularly around software-as-a-service applications. As he explained, 15 or 20 years ago, before SAP and Oracle took over the application world, CIOs relied on a concept called best of breed to guide application integration and other decisions.

The problem was “not having a single system of record, but data scattered across different applications, reporting within a silo of an application but not across applications, and not being able to provide the business with financial or analytical reporting that they need to run the business,” Davidson said. “All those challenges exist now as we move more into this heterogeneous application environment called SaaS.”

According to Davidson, one of the outcomes of moving more capabilities into the cloud, whether it involves software-as-a service or integration-as-a-service, is that organizations rely on third parties that can provision infrastructure and applications. That is changing the CIO’s role from one of brick-laying craftsmen, where they were masters of the technology domain, to an emerging focus on the application of the technology in a strategic context.

Over the next five to 10 years, he believes that CIOs must marry new technology with competitive business processes. “The CIO’s role is going to become more of the application strategist, and how to apply technology to address business opportunities,” he explained. “The challenge for a lot of CIOs is they weren’t really focused on that. The value of a lot of CIOs has been their understanding of this craft called information technology, and not really how to apply it.”

Revenue rainmakers

Davidson’s views were echoed by Brent Leland, CIO of Trek Bicycles, who also sees a much more strategic role for technology managers. Leland, who will take part in a March 7 keynote presentation on the CIO as a “revenue rainmaker,” said the world is changing very fast because technology is becoming a driving force in “pretty much everything.”

“The role of a CIO will definitely be more strategic, and it’s got to be very business focused,” Leland stated. “What the cloud gives you is the ability to move much faster and potentially transform your whole business. It’s less about technology than about understanding how to use it and apply it to business problems.”

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