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CIO means Career Is Over. Or Maybe not?

Can we raise the importance of the roles our CIO:s have, achieve a more agile and safe organization, and at the same kill off the lame joke that CIO is an acronym for "Career Is Over"? Yes, we can!

Johan Torstensson / November 13, 2020

Even though I am no longer CIO, but Head of Cloud and Infrastructure at TietoEVRY, I still have the greatest of respect for the CIO's significant role.

When tackling the challenges we face – not least in connection with the pandemic – we need to become better when it comes to learning from other people’s experiences, as well as sharing our own insights. And sharing is exactly what I will do here, and at the same time dispel the lame, old joke that CIO stands for Career Is Over.

The perils of celebrating quick results

When I served as CIO a few years ago, the role was already undergoing change, where the role description no longer really matched what I spent my days doing. The availability of new technologies and the opportunities they presented changed the organizations’ demands on the IT department, resulting in myself and my IT suppliers spending far too much time putting out various fires.

An exponential and technology-led development is taking place, and I can in real time see this development affecting our customers and partners, as well as our own organization in TietoEVRY. 

The digitalized and data-driven world we live in has created new opportunities, which in turn has led to IT organizations facing significantly greater demands when it comes to speed and agility. The amounts of data being handled are increasing enormously, and the so-called business-critical departments are usually quick to catch on to new trends, because who doesn't love a "problem solver" who always delivers quick results? 

To put it bluntly, one can say those quick decisions and quick results are celebrated, while contemplation and reflection are seen as a necessary evil. The more we celebrate quick solutions, where we buy cloud by the pound online without further hesitation, the more time our CIOs must spend acting as firefighters. This is downright foolish; any new digital solution needs the same level, or higher, of stability and protection against cyber-security attacks as the organization's existing IT environment. We all know the real final cost of an unstable and insecure solution – time, money or even lost customers. 

Give and take, all the way to the board room

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - technologies and data in themselves are not good or bad; it's all about how the technology is handled and used. The amount of data is constantly increasing and for companies and organizations to continue to benefit from all the possibilities of digitalization, different parts of the organization must work more closely than ever before. 

Those who run the business itself and members of the board have lots to learn from the CIO's experience of the company's IT environment, and our CIOs will never work as quickly as we need them to unless we invite them in to understand the business. 

When we start to view the CIO's role as being just as critical as the sales director's, and as someone who is responsible for the central platforms that our business relies on, we will see a completely different organization being born, where the CIO's time can be freed up and go from fire extinguisher to a proactive key player in the team. This requires understanding from both sides – give and take at the highest level – but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Confidants rather than colleagues

 The CIO who shoulders the opportunity – and obligation – to deliver the digital data platforms (that will help the business build innovative solutions) will be seen as indispensable by the rest of the organization. When the CIO takes on this role, the need for the entire IT department to become an integral part of the business becomes a "must" instead of a “nice to have”. 

We can no longer have isolated IT departments; – they need to be a part of the business in a way that makes organizational affiliations secondary. Confidants instead of colleagues. The boundaries we have previously set need to be erased, along with the idea of "us vs. them". Once this is accomplished, you’ll get an IT organization that focuses on business benefits instead of supplier management; in other words, as a CIO, you service your internal customers. 

In this hypothetical but not unlikely future, increased customer satisfaction cost savings and won deals are celebrated collectively – not the number of fires put out. In order for the entire IT department to take on its new role, it is necessary to evaluate which partners can deliver what is required. 

Partly in terms of competence and solutions, but the biggest challenge of all is deciding on which partner(s) to work with; which one can handle the daily operations with high quality and efficiency? It’s then, and only then, that our brilliant CIOs finds the much-needed time to get to know the business, the purpose of the organization, and make use of that knowledge to come up with even better choices for how the organization will succeed. 

As soon as we’ve fixed this, the CIO will definitely have a career on the rise, and the lame, old joke “Career Is Over” is likely to become obsolete – about time, I say.  

PS: Do you want to know more about how to proceed with your cloud transformation? Don’t miss our on-demand webinar with our cloud expert Christopher Wiborg. Read more and sign up here!  

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Johan Torstensson
Tietoevry alumni

Johan has extensive experience in delivering digital transformation projects to customers but also from his many years as former CIO for large global companies. Johan is a skilled IT strategist who understands the Nordic market.

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