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Andi Mann
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CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disrupted, Digital World?

IT leaders can take these steps today to stay relevant. Just don't confuse "checklist" with a simple fix.

Disruptive digital technologies are creating a new application-driven economy that is changing the way CIOs need to approach their jobs.

The evidence is all around us, as new technology drives disruption in industries like transportation (Lyft, Uber), hospitality (AirBnB, HomeAway), payments (Square, Google Wallet), and more. In this disrupted, digital world, software is eating the world and applications are fundamentally changing your business.

These disruptions are changing how business uses technology and driving new demands on IT. CIOs can no longer be content to lead expert teams in data center design, storage management, and vendor relations; or rely on best practices like ITIL and COBIT. Indeed, these and other "old ways" of working are often the problem, not the solution.

[What role do millennial workers play in your business strategy? Read Why Millennials Aren't Disrupting The Workplace.]

The new CIO in a disrupted, digital world must leverage new ways of delivering IT services. For example, in this world, these are some of the changes you will need to embrace:

Out with the Old

In with the New


Command and control

Network effects

Remove barriers and build engagement for teams to collaborate more flexibly

Executive mandates


Draw innovation ideas and engagement from anywhere, not just the top



Deliver better, faster, and cheaper with lower cost and risk



Focus on core competence instead of on non-differentiating systems



Rapidly source new innovation and move budgets from CapEx to OpEx

On premises

Cloud services

Reduce cost and drive agility by tapping into on-demand pay-as-you-go services

Feature complete

Good enough

Reduce time from idea to product to meet market and business demands

ITIL, Six Sigma, COBIT

Lean, Agile, DevOps

Break down silos and streamline processes to speed up service delivery



Leverage 'rogue' IT as a net positive while assisting with security, governance, and skills

In-house everything

Partners and providers

Build an ecosystem that is stronger and more profitable than its parts

Tight coupling

Loose ecosystems

Enable rapid changes to capitalize faster on emerging opportunities

Locked down

Opened up

Enable new business ideas to gain pace without pro-forma roadblocks

Unfortunately, many business leaders don't trust current CIOs to lead this digital transformation. This has led to a turf war between the CIO and CMO, and the new kid on the block, the Chief Digital Office (CDO). This is a tectonic shift in the business technology landscape, with more than 500 CDOs placed in 2013 -- a number that's predicted to double in 2014.

With the right approach, however, the CIO can take the lead, at once leading the digital revolution while leveraging existing investments. But it will take a concerted effort by that leader, with a renewed focus on business outcomes and a reinvention of the CIO role, including new skills, scopes mandates, and teams.

For the CIO who decides to face this challenge head-on and take charge of the digital revolution, here's some advice:

  • Find the path your business needs to take. Document traditional and emerging competitors, businesses in adjacent markets, cases of radical disruption, external trends, and the demands coming from peers, staff, and customers. Extrapolate your path from there.
  • Map out key stakeholders and their needs. Talk with your peers and their teams, including the CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO, (CDO?), EVP Sales, EVP Products, etc., to understand what they (and you) need, what will drive business value, and how you can assist in delivering it.
  • Put digital ownership on the table. Determine with stakeholders and peers who owns digital and who contributes, understanding that you can have a great impact without owning digital, while also ensuring you're not sidelined.
  • Map new technologies and opportunities. Examine the diverse landscape of new digital technologies, and tease out opportunities where disruption and innovation can help your stakeholders. Encourage your teams to do the same.
  • Look for opportunities to push and pull. Don't assume you have all the answers, but don't assume your business peers do either. Instead, look to pull ideas from your business colleagues, and push your ideas to them. (Consider the challenge of the Pushmi-pullyu!)
  • Be prepared for human issues. As you move forward with digital, you may need new staff, teams, org structures, culture, skills, processes, and connections, while also dealing with recalcitrants, rogues, and other barriers. Perhaps most importantly, to be the new CIO your business needs to survive and thrive in this disrupted, digital world, start making a difference today -- actually, literally, today. For example:
  • Connect with business peers. Pick up a phone and call the CMO, the CFO, the CEO to talk about your digital strategy. Start to work together on this challenge, and put your stake in the ground as a valuable leader or contributor.
  • Open up to 'non-corporate' devices. You don't have to allow open slather, but realize that staffs are probably already using 'rogue' devices. So authorize connectivity for at least a selection of devices (e.g., by role or device type) and establish/enforce a policy that makes sense.
  • Find a social leader and empower them. This does not have to be an IT person, but make sure you have a knowledgeable and active social networking leader who can start immediately to establish new policies, guidelines, roles, training, and skills.
  • Analyze your own software portfolio. Without an understanding of what software and services are mission-critical, what is costing too much, what is driving differentiation, etc., you will be blindsided when (not if) you are asked to migrate non-core services to cloud.
  • Start using cloud services. This is a no-brainer, because your business is already using cloud, whether you approve or not. Have a "No cloud" rule? Kill it today, and have your team buy into a cloud service so they can start working with it and gain essential skills.
  • Create an API program. Task a small team to document internal API standards, investigate standardizing APIs and exposing microservices internally, and leveraging 3rd-party APIs for new applications. Already, 43% of enterprises have an API program, so do not be left behind.
  • Build a corporate mobile app. If you don't have a simple mobile app for internal use, find a small group to plan, build, and deploy one. It can be as basic as making the latest marketing materials available to your mobile sales teams, so you can start today.
  • Rebuild your service delivery chain. Look to adopt agile techniques and DevOps approaches throughout the lifecycle, from planning to development to test and production. Carve out a small team and/or a specific service (e.g., mobile dev) today so they can start tomorrow.

The road to digital transformation will not be simple. The digital world means adjusting to new roles and demands, embracing new technologies, and tapping into new ecosystems to drive competitive advantages. The alternative, though, is watching as old-world businesses crumble before our eyes as they fail to react to new threats and opportunities.

In today's "Application Economy," every business is becoming a technology business; every business is being rewritten by software. If you are not already working on your digital strategy, you are already being left behind. But if you start to make changes today, you can be the new CIO for the disrupted, digital world of tomorrow.

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Andi Mann is an accomplished digital executive with global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. With over 30 years' experience, he is a sought-after advisor, commentator, and speaker. Andi has coauthored two books. He blogs at Andi ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
12/15/2014 | 10:54:06 AM
Ever evolving
With the convergence today's technologies (mobile, cloud and big data), the entire IT space is constantly changing. How organizations embrace and leverage these technologies will ultimately define whether or not the businesses with thrive or struggle to keep up.  I think each has it's place, but the actual usage needs to depend heavily on what the organization needs to accomplish.  For instance, big data presents businesses with an amazing opportunity to improve operations. However, it means creating a truly analytical culture if the business hopes to see sustainable results.  That takes more than just an investment in a tool. It takes resources and commitment. 


Peter Fretty, IDG blogger working on behalf of SAS
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
12/8/2014 | 6:28:42 PM
Federated IT?
Andi is describing a more decentraliized, kind of federated IT, setting the project team and fulfilling requirements for a new app in one instance, enabling a marketing or other dept.-lead app in another. It's role will be both to lead technically and to advise and consent.
User Rank: Moderator
12/8/2014 | 6:04:46 PM
Re: Great Points
Thanks Stuart, I appreciate you reading and commenting on my article.

We are certainly in broad agreement on cloud, I think, from our conversations. You have a great handle on the need to be a new kind of CIO - an enabler, not a roadblock - even where may other stil (amazingly) do not.

The point you raise about consumerization is especially salient and well made. Consumerization of technology, and IT especially, is at the core of digital disruption. It has made cloud, mobile, and even more 'techy' areas like IoT so much easier for business leaders and users to understand and adopt. So that is not the exclusive preserve of IT anymore.

Instead, as technologists, our roles and attitudes need to change to fit that new paradigm, not try to usurp it or fight it. Because you are absolutely correct (albeit perhaps sadly for some) - the old-school 'CI-No' has a limited shelf life, and the clock is ticking.

User Rank: Moderator
12/8/2014 | 5:51:55 PM
Re: Open Source
Hi Ian, thanks for reading and commenting.

I think the Open Source vs. Proprietary consideration really comes down to fit-for-purpose more than anything. Both models have pros and cons, so both should be included in any portfolio analysis. Whether you Build vs Buy, or Buy vs Lease, every CIO should consider both approaches.

User Rank: Ninja
12/8/2014 | 7:30:59 AM
Re: CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disruspted, Digital World?

I guess the question then becomes how do you make sure you're building guardrails and not walls?  I'm sure that many CIOs feel like they are doing the right thing and they feel like they are freeing their people to do great things but the people below them see nothing but walls.  If this wasn't true we wouldn't have conversations like this pop up so often.  It's not an impossible task since we hear about leaders doing this in some very security conscious industries but why do we see it going wrong so often in every industry?

User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2014 | 1:45:21 PM
Great Points
Great article Andi.  Accepting business driven cloud products, while acting as an advisor, is especially important.  IT needs to get out of the command and control mentality and accept the consumerization of IT that is driving much of this.   Much of this feels like CIO 101 these days and it still amazes me that CIO's are fighting BYOD, cloud and other items that facilitate business growth and user productivity. Not saying everything has risk, or it's easy, but fighting it is not the answer.  Not sure those CIO's will be around much longer.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2014 | 3:49:09 AM
Open Source
Great Article, especially in relation to changes in implementation methodology. I am assuming Open Source is being included in the buy v lease comparison, as obviously there is a massive drive towards this in the digital space.
User Rank: Moderator
12/4/2014 | 9:18:48 PM
Re: CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disruspted, Digital World?
Thanks SaneIT, that is a very thoughtful comment.

I work for a software company myself, and it is true that we are sometimes the proverbial "cobbler's children", with no shoes of our own. But I know at CA Technologies we are a historied Fortune 500 business in transformation too. we just launched 2 internal mobile apps in the last 12 months, as well as 2 customer-facing apps. We have a pretty good BYOD policy, and are using our own EMM and SSO software to manage it. We have adopted Agile and are working on a DevOps approach to software delivery. We have focused our portfolio and are a leader in our field in using social media. So I guesss we are taking our own medicine. :)

As to empowerment of staff, I couldn't agree more. This is a big part of what I mention, the network effect - allowing a mesh of staff to work together across teams in a mainly self-directed mode. Make sure everyone is aligned around the business goals, prepared with guidelines (i.e. 'guardrails, not walls'), then as you say, "clear the path for your team and let them do what they love." That is a great way to put it! :)


User Rank: Moderator
12/4/2014 | 9:04:07 PM
Re: CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disruspted, Digital World?
Excellent point Li Tan, thanks for the comment. Do you still see many CIOs who fear change instead of seeking it out, looking for "Why I cannot." instead of "How will I?". I know I do, despite the upsides to the digital future. I don't understand why - there is risk (as you point out) with each new leap forward, but you have to innovate or you will be out of business, right?

User Rank: Author
12/4/2014 | 3:54:58 PM
Re: CIO Checklist: Ready For The Disruspted, Digital World?
Good point on the "build a moblie app" example -- just get started. An internal app is a low-risk way to go at it, but I talked with one CIO who built an app that the sales team was calling for to use in front of customers, something that had a very tight scope, and it drove new revenue. That got people excited around the company.

Of course, success means a new problem of having to manage demand -- but that's the problem a CIO wants. 

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