Is Software Eating the CIO?

Venture capitalist and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen wrote a now-famous 2011 Wall Street Journal editorial declaring that software is eating the world. He argued, “We are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy.”

 

The disruption Andreessen wrote about was widespread in the consumer space. Since 2011, that disruption has crept into the enterprise. Consider:

 

For all of its advantages and disadvantages, the shift to software-as-a-service has changed how IT is consumed in the enterprise.

 

And that shift is threatening the role of the CIO.

 

No More Software-in-a-Box

Before software endangered the CIO, the enterprise’s IT needs were met by software-in-a-box. Procured for the enterprise by the CIO. Installed by a small army of IT specialists. Rarely modified for specific lines of business, and then only by IT. Controlled end-to-end by the CIO.

 

Now, the enterprise’s IT needs are met by services delivered through the cloud. Procured by heads of business. No install necessary – accessible anytime, anywhere. Customized to meet specific needs. Controlled end-to-end by the line of business.

 

On the upside, cloud-based enterprise software-as-a-service solutions enable business users to take productivity into their own hands. But on the downside, they’ve given rise to shadow IT, which poses significant security risks and management challenges for the IT organization.

 

Many enterprise IT organizations continue to resist enabling lines of business to leverage cloud-based SaaS solutions. Yet lines of business continue to leverage cloud-based SaaS solutions, outside the enterprise IT framework if necessary. They do it to stay ahead in their game. Because shadow IT allows employees quick and easy access to the resources they need to do their jobs.

 

CIOs have an opportunity to redefine their role and transform their IT organizations. But they must be able to deploy and provision infrastructure and applications in a way that delivers significant strategic and competitive advantage, while maintaining security standards.

 

The New CIO

 

For CIOs who can embrace this model and learn to deliver value to the enterprise in new ways, the future is bright. They must change how they deliver IT services to the enterprise. They must bring shadow IT into the light. Embrace cloud-based SaaS. Deliver value. Become a strategic asset.

 

How? Data Center 2.0 is one of the keys to doing all of this while maintaining interoperability, manageability, and security.

 

To move from a supporting role to a truly strategic one, CIOs must sit with their CEOs, understand what their business goals are, and make sure that IT aligns with them. Ditch the jargon. Be open to ideas. Be receptive to change.

 

For CIOs who won’t adapt? They’ll go the way of Borders, Blockbuster, and Tower Records. Eaten by software, too.