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12/21/2009
09:20 AM
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Global CIO: The Top 10 CIO Issues For 2010

For CIOs, 2010 will require new emphases on customers, revenue, external information, and a passion for rapid change.

While the business-technology world of 2010 will present a dramatically different outlook to CIOs versus the perspective they had 12 months earliers, we at InformationWeek's Global CIO think many of the core challenges and priorities will be similar. The glaring change, of course, is the absence this year of the all-consuming day-to-day struggle for mere survival that so many companies experienced in early 2009, and all the extraordinary cost-cutting that struggle demanded.

But the leaned-down, cranked-up expectations for CIOs that congealed so rapidly in last year's fight for survival remains, and that heightened sense of what CIOs must achievein spite of being in command of fewer resourcesis the overwhelming differentiator in the CIO 2010 agenda. To lean on a dominant clich from this past year, "the new normal" for CIOs in 2010 will be to accomplish a whole lot more with a whole lot less.

From our conversations throughout the year with hundreds of IT vendors, hundreds of CIOs, dozens of academics and analysts, and our own gleaned from covering this field since Abraham Lincoln's time, here's Global CIO's list of the Top 10 CIO Issues For 2010:

1) The Cloud Imperative. Cloud computing takes the top spot for focus and achievement in 2010 because in spite of all the questions and concerns still floating around it, the cloud offers CIOs huge potential for attacking priority #2 (flipping the 80/20 ratio on maintenance/innovation spending) and exploiting priority #3 (driving revenue growth). In the fourth quarter of this year, I've seen a dramatic surge in not only CIO interest in the cloud's capabilities and potential deployments, but also in IT-vendor emphasis on providing cloud-based solutions that are real, tangible, practical, and trustworthy. This is the big leap that successful CIOs must make in the coming year because no other architectural or platform approach will yield as much gain in lowering the cost of internal IT operations and liberating precious IT budget dollars to be deployed toward customer-centric growth opportunities. If by mid-year you have not developed and begun to execute upon an ambitious and enterprisewide cloud strategy, then by year-end the odds are good you'll no longer be a CIO.

2) The 80/20 Spending Trap. This intractable mindset has been something that we've bitched, kvetched, whined, and vehemed about throughout the year and I certainly wouldn't blame you for being tired of hearing about it. Yet in our recent webcast called "Welcome To The CIO Revolution: The Global CIO 2010 Agenda," an interactive polling question revealed that almost two-thirds of the audience said that here in December of 2009, they are spending at leat 70% and in some cases 80% of their IT budgets on internal operations. No one's questioning the importance of internal operations and the need to run a tight ship, but the bigger question is this: if the vast majority of your IT dollars are keeping the lights on, how in the world are you going to fund transformative and customer-centric projects? How are you going to make the CIO position and the IT organization part of the growth engine of the company instead of being a tactical cost center? When the economy improves, and when your CEO demands that you begin to launch some of those great ideas that have been collecting dust on the shelf for the past 15-18 months, do you really want your answer to be, "Hey, look, I agree with you philosophically, but the problem is I don't have any money left to help us grow because it's all being used exactly the way it was 10 or even 15 years ago, which is to fund old, stuffy, inflexible, and expensive systems and applications and people to manage all that." My guess is CEOs will be brandishing a zero-tolerance policy for such thinking in 2010and that's why cloud computing and its promise of offering more capability in less time and at lower cost deserves massive scrutiny from CIOs in 2010.

3) CIO-Led Revenue Growth And Customer Engagement. Let's look at the alternative: in 2010, you choose not to become part of the company's revenue engine, and you choose to continue to keep yourself and your IT team isolated from customers. Forgive my French, but then how in the heck can you expect to be taken seriously, particularly in today's challenging economy? How can you expect not to be regarded as a lumpy and obstructionist cost-center that needs to get the treatment that all cost centers get: relentlessly ground down until nothing remains? Where is/was it written that IT organizationsin spite of all their brains and all their capabilities and all their opportunitiesget a free pass when it comes to supplying the lifeblood of any business: revenue? CIOs who refuse to move in this direction will be ex-CIOs by June.

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Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our new online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.
4) Mastering End-to-End Business Processes. File this one along with #3 above in the "Big Opportunities" folder. CIOs are one of the few types of executives who have the chance to see, analyze, and understand all of their companies' end-to-end business processes: that's a tremendous privilege, and a remarkable opportunity! Where's the waste? Where's the latency? How is the revenue mix changing? Where's a new-product opportunity? Where can we enhance our line of products and services with high-value new information about those products and services and the aggregate usage of them by customers? Which suppliers/partners are pulling their weight and which are not? How well or how poorly are we anticipating and reacting to shifting customer behavior? Think about your value to the company if you actively use your knowledge of and involvement in all those process-driven questionsand then think of your value to the company if you choose to shrug your shoulders and say it's just not part of your job? Such indifference might have been okay in 2008 or 2009; it will not be acceptable in 2010. Plus, you'll need to see around the corners:

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