Next Gen IT: The New CIO

Posted | Category: BRM Capability | Contributed

If you’re curious at all, you can’t help but wonder what the future holds for businesses, jobs, and our families. I think it is natural to wonder what life will be like in the future. In the world of technology, futurists have predicted the end of the CIO, software that writes itself, and that IT itself will become irrelevant in business.

I haven’t done the analysis, but it seems that predictions about the future are more often wrong than right. Regardless, it is fun to dream about what life will be like a decade from now. Thinking back ten years ago, I wouldn’t have guessed my family would be asking our smart home device to turn on the lights and set the temperature in the house using natural language. It is safe to say that we can expect more surprises in the years ahead.

Having spent a career in IT, change has always been ever present. I have lived through mainframe computing, back office automation, client server, the mouse, graphic user interfaces, and most recently voice user interfaces. Change is inevitable and there are some early signs that our world in IT is changing yet again, as are all the other functions in companies.

There are significant market forces that are making an impact on the way we think of IT and of customers. Social media and mobile devices have tipped the balance of power to consumers who now have more influence over pricing decisions, branding, and engagement expectations than ever before.

For IT, social media impact has directly influenced technologies that touch customers.

Mobile apps, smartphone friendly websites, and customer reviews shape how we build and deploy customer facing technologies as a matter of course. The ever-expanding options for cloud computing, big data, and cyber security are all shaping the road ahead for IT and for businesses in general.

These five forces, 1) customer influence 2) mobile 3) cloud computing 4) big data and 5) cybersecurity are reshaping the design–build–run model IT has leveraged the past couple of decades.

I also think there is sixth market force at play that is bringing cross-functional teams together in response to the influence customers have on companies go-to-market strategies. I think of this sixth market force as the “people platform”.

The People Platform

Old-fashioned hierarchies are under pressure and digital disruption is forcing teams to respond faster. Team-based tools have exploded, making it even easier for teams to collaborate, no matter where they are on the globe. 


We typically think of websites or mobile apps as the keys to engagement. Today however, customer engagement is so much more … it is now influenced by every part of a company’s operating model. It matters who we hire, how we package products, how well we support products, and how quickly we ship and deliver products. Customer journeys are impacted by all aspects of the company’s operating model. It takes a cross-functional team to recognize this and work as a cohesive team to drive real value in the digital era. I believe that the Business Relationship Manager role is well positioned to facilitate and drive this new people-powered platform.

The New Shape of IT – Collaborate – Integrate – Orchestrate

I had the honor of speaking to the United Nations IT organization recently. My topic centered on the impact major market forces are having on IT and business and the critical role of Business Relationship Management. Propelled by the six market forces I described, I believe that IT will evolve from the traditional Design-Build-Run operating model to a new model which I call the new CIO; Collaborate-Integrate-Orchestrate. 


Hyper-focused, customer-centric collaboration will take place across the company because that is what the new world requires to be successful. Coupled with their understanding of customers and the company strategy, BRMs and IT will partner strategically to deliver solutions that meet the customer’s needs and drive company strategy. This new type of strategic partnering requires a solid knowledge of the cloud offerings landscape and a keen sense of what it takes to deliver solutions that drive real business value. I think of this new type of collaboration as a borderless operating model requiring departmental walls to come down and teams to work together to get things done. People powered platforms are central to collaboration and delivering value to external customers. At the BRM Institute, we teach BRMs how to facilitate and drive this new converged-team operating model.


With an expanding list of cloud offerings, IT organizations and BRMs must integrate and deliver a cohesive end-user experience across internal and cloud-based systems. Integrating business solutions will take on an increasingly important role in the next generation IT organization. At the same time, getting meaningful information from this disparate ecosystem will continue to be critically important. Data-powered companies depend on well architected information solutions that drive customer engagement and marketing activities.


In the past, IT organizations celebrated a successful new system implementation or system upgrade. In the next gen IT organization, that won’t be enough. Savvy executives increasingly expect IT and BRMs to measure business outcomes promised by the new system or upgrade. Measuring business value will become a core competency for the next gen IT organization. What isn’t changing in the new world is the expectation that IT keeps all systems humming along while keeping company assets safe and secure. Cybersecurity is a bigger challenge that ever before and cyber criminals continue to up their game.

Progress is inevitable and with it, organizations will encounter challenges and new opportunities.

It is said that change is hard for the unwilling. Resisting the reality of market forces and ignoring the power of customers will assuredly result in frustration and setbacks. The digital era will reshape or eliminate many jobs that are commonplace today. Successful companies will embrace the collaborative people-powered platform to gain a competitive advantage. Vibrant and impactful IT organizations will welcome next gen IT organization that recognize the power of a collaborate-integrate-orchestrate model.

Look to BRMs to help you get the new people-powered platform up and running smoothly.

About the Author

Joe Topinka is a recognized, game-changing CIO, executive coach, and published author and bestselling author. His IT Business Partner Program™ drives exponential business results consistently across industries by bridging the chasm between business stakeholders and IT organizations.

He is the founder of CIO Mentor, LLC and a board chair of the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI). Joe is a two-time CIO of the Year award winner in both Minneapolis and Charlotte.


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