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CIOs must adapt or risk being replaced

Tom Kaneshige | May 14, 2014
Michael Keithley has more than two decades of experience as a CIO. However, the IT veteran says he's seeing more change now than ever before.'s Tom Kaneshige sat down with Keithley to talk about the challenges he and his colleagues face, the need to speak the same language as the business side and the reality of what lies ahead for CIOs who refuse to change their approach.

Consumer tech and cloud services empower line-of-business managers to go around IT in greater numbers than ever before. It's shaking up the role of CIOs, forcing them to shift from tech gatekeeper to tech enabler.

Michael Keithley at Creative Artists Agency in Hollywood, Calif., calls this shift the biggest he's seen in his more than two decades serving as a CIO. He also says he fears many of his peers will struggle to make this shift and some may even lose their jobs. sat down with Keithley to talk about the new role of the CIO. You've been a CIO for more than two decades. How would you characterize this change? How big is it?
Michael Keithley: We're at a unique time in the history of this industry. There's more change going on now than there ever has, at least from what I can remember. It's really significant, a big tipping point. The pace of change is also really accelerating. It's exciting for me.

After years and years of traditional IT — standardizing on Windows desktops with Dell or Hewlett-Packard, and BlackBerry as the mobile device, everything locked down in a very command-and-control kind of way — recently the forces of cloud and mobile and consumerization have changed the game completely. I went from that traditional shop to one of wide-open enablement, where I allow users to use whatever tools, devices or technologies they need to get their job done.

It's a sea change for how IT thinks about things. You've used the term 'chief enabler' to describe the CIO's new role. I've also heard 'cloud broker.' What exactly are the demands of this new role?
Keithley: Pretty much everything changes. We're a global organization, so I have data centers strewn around the world, yet I'm actively trying to get out of the data center business. The primary way I'm doing that is aggressively migrating to the cloud. You get wonderful benefits, but it also completely changes how you have to access risk. Security and compliance are things every CIO has to deal with.

Historically, we've had the concept of the corporate LAN or WAN and the wild Internet. The firewall was the choke point where you could implement all your security stuff. Now, on the cloud or mobile devices, I'm rarely coming back to the corporate LAN. And so you have to approach security in a completely different way.

Certainly one of the biggest areas where CIOs can provide value and leadership is in contract negotiations, especially with SaaS vendors. If you're a CMO or line-of-business manager, you're thinking very tactically about the problem you're trying to solve. But the reality is that none of the historical things around data integrity, security and compliance, creating silos and master data — all the things that IT is really good at — are still there.


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