That number one position in a company appeals to many. As CEO of a company, you rule the roost. You give the orders, make the decisions and get to buddy up with other captains of industry in exclusive clubs. In days gone by, the route to promotion to CEO might have been via finance, sales or manufacturing, for example. These were good old-fashioned down-to-earth activities that each targeted a vital area of the business. Then came the rise of the supply chain and with it the Supply Chain Director. Multiple talents and cross-functional expertise made that person a shoe-in for the top slot. Except that now there’s a new competitor on the scene, thanks in no small part to the cloud.
Heads in the Cloud
“Software is eating business”. Marc Andreessen’s comment continues to echo in cyber space, because it continues to be credible. More and more enterprises use software to drive their operations, and more and more of them also use cloud computing services to do it. The power of the former and the cheapness of the latter are transforming both how and where business gets done. PaaS and IaaS facilities let companies run their data centers in the cloud at high speed and store large quantities of data economically. SaaS offerings exist now for many different business functions, including finance, sales and manufacturing. IT is increasingly where it’s at, and IT is the domain of the CIO.
Chief Information Officers in the Spotlight
The advantages of the cloud reflect favorably on the CIO: added business value, cost-savings and opportunities for innovation. While customer satisfaction may still be tightly coupled with supply chain performance, functional managers increasingly see the IT department and its CIO as the go-to resources to get things done. CIO exposure to the different facets of the enterprise increases. The CIO becomes not only the enabler for the different business projects, but also a source of information and ideas about how different departments can improve their performance, to the extent of rivaling the level of expertise of a Supply Chain Director.
Not All CIOs are Convinced
However, some CIOs remain skeptical about the feasibility of using the cloud. They are concerned that certain key issues may jeopardize the well-being and even the survival of an organization that becomes too cloud-centric. Security gaps, lack of compliance and outages are among the criticisms leveled at cloud service providers. In some instances, the cloud is even evaluated as being a more expensive solution that on-premises computing, without offering any compensatory advantages. The cloud is not automatically the best solution for all. However, enough organizations have benefited from overall improvement to justify in-depth consideration of cloud-based options.
Ready for that Personal Performance Appraisal?
Whatever their career aspirations, CIOs have a responsibility to drive IT to help a business perform better. The less time they must spend on the day-to-day IT maintenance activities (without sacrificing quality), the better, because they can then free up time to pursue projects and initiatives that are strategically important. The balance struck between maintaining and innovating, or between supporting and enhancing is also a factor in personal appraisals and therefore career advancement. Cloud providers are continually improving their security, compliance and continuity of service, often above the levels that individual organizations could achieve through on-premises computing. They might just be the lever that upwardly mobile CIOs can pull on to get a line under their name for the top position, instead of through it.