CIO – the next generation

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02Nov2010

CIO – the next generation

  • By Andrew Garrett
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There’s a new generation of pending CIOs who are working their way up the industry ranks. They’re different to the old school in a number of ways. They need to be, the technology world is changing faster than ever. Some of them have reached CIO level positions, while others are still in the early stages of their IT careers, and won’t be there for a few years. The CIOs of the future are a very different breed to the CIOs of now.

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Big Iron vs Overgrown Desktops

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Traditional CIOs come from the days when mainframes were for business, and everything else was a toy. Back then, if you wanted to do serious work (is there any other kind?), you needed big iron that cost (at least) 6 figures, required re-inforced floors and a pallet-jack or forklift to move.

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Next-Generation CIOs cut their teeth on Linux and Windows, they’re used to “small iron” servers, they’re on board with clustering, redundant failover. They understand how the cloud works, and the love the idea of not having to actually have hardware to look after.

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Bare Metal Coders vs High Level Hand-wavers

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Assembler, Cobol and Fortran – real languages for when you need the job done right. Back in the day, the computers were slow and stupid – you needed your code to be fast and precise. Traditional CIOs are horrified to realise that modern coders can’t code for bare metal, have no idea how to address memory directly, and really don’t care about what CPU they’re writing for.

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Modern coders write in high level languages, letting the computer figure out the optimal way to do things, and knowing that most of the time, it’ll get things right. They know that it’s more cost-efficient to add another CPU to each server than for them to spend 2 months optimising the code for a few microseconds here and there. RAM is cheap, we’ll just add more of it, no need to be overly careful about memory.

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Many CIOs who’ve had skin in the game for a while come from a development background. But the type of background it was, that makes a difference.

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In-house vs outsourcers

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Back in the day, if you had IT needs, you had an IT department. These days, if you’re not in the IT business, why would you? Leave it to the experts! Of course, it’s never that simple, that cut and dried – but your Next Generation CIO is onboard with outsourcing, pulling in expertise as and when it’s needed rather than keeping it all in-house.

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Technology vs Business

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Your CIO has to have something of a technical bent – but these days, as IT reaches its tentacles further and further into every aspect of the business, your CIO has to know more and more about anything and everything. CIOs these days are generalists, who know lots about almost everything, and even more about technology. More importantly, they know how these things inter-relate, and look for ways to leverage technology to make everyone else’s job easier.

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What does it all mean?

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A good CIO is flexible, adaptive, and able to not only move with the times, but able to foresee where things are heading, and align their business to take advantage of change at the most opportune times.

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A good CIO drives organisation change that benefits the organisation in tangible ways.

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And remember… a good CIO doesn’t have to be onboard full time.

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