CIOs are now operating in an environment of both partnership and outright competition with IT vendors.Thriving in this environment requires CIOs to "sell" their unique value proposition within their own organisations.
The enterprise market once dominated the product design decisions of almost all technology vendors. Sitting in a position of incredible power over these vendors was the CIO - the individual who oversaw sourcing decisions, facilitated implementations and dictated the pace of technology upgrades.
However, the past decade has seen the growing autonomy of line of business (LOB) managers and individual employees to make their own technology decisions.
Cloud computing has played a big part in this, calling into question the long-term value of a central asset managed by IT departments - the enterprise data centre. The pricing, licensing and acquisition model of cloud computing also facilitates direct engagement by LOB managers, with minimal, if any, involvement of enterprise IT staff.
Consumerisation has also spread autonomous IT decision making to most employees. This is resulting in a need for bring-your-own-device and bring-your-own-application policies. The level of technology knowledge outside the IT department has increased dramatically. Non-IT workers simply don't need IT departments to explain things as they once did.
Although CIOs may hope to slow the pace of change, the harsh reality is that there is no returning to the days when all technology decisions flowed through the IT department.
Vendors have increasing influence
One of the primary impacts of this new reality is that vendors have increasing influence on an enterprise's digital direction. This influence has always been an issue that CIOs have had to deal with, but the variety and the volume of vendors now staking a claim to the "digital narrative" of enterprises are unprecedented.
It's important that CIOs recognise the unique selling propositions of vendors, beyond simple build vs. buy considerations. Vendors often have a broad perspective on their clients' industries and areas of operation, as they supply solutions to many other organisations within those industries and areas. Unlike most IT departments, this gives them opportunities to talk to, and form relationships with, non-IT staff - managers and other individual employees.
Vendors, however, also have significant limitations. They're unlikely to have a holistic view of any clients' organisations because they've only limited access to them, which means their relationships are also limited.
Without a central point of coordination, which IT departments could provide, client organisations will find that multiplying vendor relationships will result in a disjointed mass of tactical technological initiatives that work against the emergence of a broad, coherent digital business strategy.
Democratisation of IT decision making
CIOs face a challenge. The democratisation of IT decision making within enterprises, and the growing influence of vendors, means that CIOs no longer "win by default." Instead, they must convince other members of their organisation of their value.
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