Adopt and perish: The CIO's cloud dilemma

Resistance to the cloud is an easy way to get fired, but succeeding with the cloud may eliminate the justification for a CIO

Adopt and perish: The CIO's cloud dilemma
Credit: Paolo Cordoni

Back in 2011, I wrote a post that asked whether CIOs who were too aggressive around cloud or not aggressive enough, and I explored the strong indications that CIOs would eventually get the boot due to a weak cloud strategy. Four years later, CIOs don't seem to get fired over being too aggressive with the use of the public cloud, but they are certainly shown the door if they overtly push back against the cloud.

Thus, adopting the cloud may seem like a no-brainer for CIOs. However, CIOs have the most to lose from the adoption of cloud computing -- namely, control. That's why many CIO went aggressively against the use of public cloud resources in the past, and why many today have gone underground with passive-aggressive actions against cloud computing.

Why go underground these days? In the words of a CIO friend of mine:

The decisions have been taken out of the hands of the CIO and placed in the hands of marketing hype. What the masses desire may be right for some companies, but not right for all. Yet you feel pressured to use technology without sufficient due diligence. So, you just shut up and adopt the cloud, hoping everything goes well.

If it goes poorly, the CIO gets fired. But if it goes well, the need for the CIO becomes less apparent to business executives. As Forbes writer Eric Savitz recently noted:

A recent report from Getronics, "The Changing Role of the CFO," found that 17 percent of corporate financial decision-makers believe the position of the chief information officer will disappear from the business landscape in the next five years. The cloud is at the heart of this bold projection, because the technology has dramatically changed the way organizations invest in and consume technology. CIOs who do not value the cloud in today's current IT environment are putting an expiration date on their usefulness in the enterprise.

Such conclusions are the reality that CIOs now face. Indeed, IT is fundamentally changing around the use of cloud. It's similar to the automation trend that started in the 1960s -- companies had to do it to compete, but many jobs ultimately disappeared permanently as a result. Regardless, automation has long been table stakes. The use of the cloud will be, too, before long.

To have a post-cloud career, CIOs need to find new roles in the business using the cloud and other emerging technologies. Their importance will certainly diminish in light of the seemingly inevitable decentralized technology strategy. The cloud simply makes that decentralization easier. Where the CIO fits in that new world is, frankly, up to the CIOs today to figure out.

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