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The CIO’s broadening role: Business strategist, futurist, change agent

Divina Paredes | Aug. 18, 2017
Robin Johansen on why CIOs should prepare for the impact of political and economic developments across the globe.

Credit: Dreamstime 

“Be prepared for anything,” says Robin Johansen, as he sums up a critical mindset for today’s CIOs.

Johansen was CIO at Beca, the engineering and consulting group, for 13 years and now works with a range of organisations as an independent ICT strategist and consultant.

Now based in Nelson, on the South Island of New Zealand, Johansen sees the CIO role in the digital era as becoming very broad.

He says that with computing assets and services increasingly being delivered from geographically diverse locations, CIOs have to work through both a big picture and local perspective of the market, and how these will impact their role, their teams and their respective organisation and sector.

“From a technology standpoint, we have got an absolute explosion going on. The development of new technologies is just breathtaking,” says Johansen, who is currently looking at distributed ledgers or blockchain as a “potentially massive technology.”

Concurrent with this, there is enormous global turbulence, politically, economically and socially. “There are some real issues emerging, which are partly to do with and will be exacerbated by technology.”

He says one of these is inequality arising from the disappearance of jobs due to automation and other disruptive technologies.

These new technologies are very radically and rapidly changing the nature of work, and what is coming out from various reports is we are destroying more jobs than we are creating, says Johansen.

In the past, he says, the jobs that disappeared due to technology were replaced by new jobs, “so there was a balance.”

“That is no longer the case.”

He believes this issue translates into politics in Europe and the United States, where discussions are heightened around tightening borders for migrants, slowing the movement of jobs offshore and the possible introduction of new tariffs or trade sanctions.

“That is moving away from globalisation and yet, so many of the systems we have set up in the past 20 years, depend on globalisation,” he states.

“If you think just about cloud computing, a lot of people are dependent on cloud services that are not based in their own country.

He says cybersecurity is a particular concern as there is now a lot of sophistication around recent cyber incidents.

“There seems to be strong evidence of state players messing with electronics systems,” he says, referring to the the current discussion on the alleged meddling by Russia in the recent US elections.

“If you can do that for an election, it is not a big step from there to start a completely different sort of warfare. What if you broke into the electrical transmission systems of a nation and just disrupted them without firing a shot, then you will have completely unsettled that environment?”


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