The CIO’s New World – Transformation, Innovation and the Impediments to Achieving Them

by Ed Page
Managing Director – Leader, Protiviti’s National Financial Services IT Consulting Practice

Innovation and IT transformation are hot topics these days. Our Emerging Risks and IT Priorities surveys highlight these points clearly, as there’s good reason for these trends.

Technology is evolving at an incredible pace, putting new capabilities in the hands of both end users and IT professionals alike. This creates a growing need for IT organizations to become more nimble as they seek to adapt to changes in both the technology landscape and consumer behaviors. A lot of attention is being paid to the impact of social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) technologies, with many organizations moving towards Agile development methodologies and supporting tools (DevOps) as means of becoming responsive. These areas of focus fuel many of the innovation and IT transformation opportunities that we so often hear about.

On the other hand, there is little talk about the impediments that exist in many large IT shops. The unfortunate reality is that many large enterprises are simply not engineered to take full advantage of these new methods and technical capabilities.

For example, the IT infrastructure for most enterprises in financial services has been developed over decades, often complicated by the impact of multiple mergers and acquisitions. The result is an architecture that I liken to an archeological dig. At the top layer, you’ll find some of the shiniest and newest technology known to man, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that it’s built on top of layers and layers of older technology, some dating back three decades or more. The interdependencies between these layers are complex, so it’s not a simple matter to “rip and replace” the older parts of the environment, but absolutely mission critical. Dealing with this reality is not as easy or lacks the same level of sizzle as deploying new products and services, but it cannot be ignored.

This underscores the need for IT transformation, making the job of the CIO a lot like the manager of a large city that has to undergo urban renewal. The enterprise – the CIO’s city – has to keep operating flawlessly while the renewal occurs. Funding for infrastructure renewal has to be procured, risks have to be managed, and “detours” have to be planned and communicated – all while core infrastructure work is underway.

And it’s not just about the technology; working through organizational change has importance since processes are designed to support the current complexity. Successful IT executives will be those who recognize the need for change, then develop and execute a risk-managed plan to adapt their people, processes and technology to create a solid foundation within an organization to support the adoption of new technical capabilities and enable innovation.

These transformation challenges, as well as opportunities presented, are described more fully in our recent FS Insights article on The IT Hierarchy of Concerns and the Ambiguous Cloud of Emerging Technology.


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