IT execs to take to the road in future says IDC

IDC's head of research says the role is changing

CIOs and IT managers should prepare to spend more time in the boardroom and on the road with marketing executives, because increasing amounts of digital information, extra security requirements and tighter integration with the business are changing the way they need to approach their jobs.

That was the message from IDC’s chief research officer, John Gantz, in a keynote address at the recent IDC IT Forum & Expo held in Boston.

Globalisation and technology are driving change in the IT industry very quickly, Gantz said, noting examples such as Google’s planned 120 square metre server farm and IBM’s “office” in Second Life. The number of devices in the hands of consumers — from cameras and cellphones to personal computers — is expected to double between 2006 and 2010 and the amount of digital information IT organisations must handle is expected to grow six times bigger during the same span, Gantz said.

“Somewhere at the intersection of content, information and IT, the realm of the CIO expands a little,” he said.

Security vulnerabilities in IT have increased six-fold since 2000, and with businesses now expected to publicly report data-breaches, IT managers can expect to spend more time in the boardroom and see their responsibility migrate outwards, into more aspects of the organisation, he said.

IT and business services are becoming increasingly intertwined, he added. That means CIOs have to handle more signals and transactions, and increasingly support mobile and broadband customers, putting IT in the direct line of an enterprise’s revenue stream.

Instead of the “smiles and handshakes” of sales people, IT executives are now becoming the face of a company, Gantz argued. IT staff are also being embedded within other departments, such as payroll, research and development, and manufacturing.

“There are some organisations where CIOs are on the road with marketing people more often than they are in the office,” he said.

Some argue that IT can no longer provide a sustainable competitive advantage, because technology is available to anyone, Gantz said, echoing the views of Nicholas Carr, author of Does IT Matter?

However, IT organisations can create a “series of temporary advantages” by quickly responding to change, he said.

“You should expect to see a lot more scrutiny of IT and how flexible it is.”

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