Tag Archives: CIO

Facing Digital Disruption

Image of airplanes in formation, one plane climbing straight up. In a recent Accenture report, 24% of surveyed CFOs believe that their company will cease to exist in its current form due to disruptive competition. Fifty-eight percent think their industry will be disrupted and 41% believe more than half of their competitors will disappear. The telling statistic, however, is that only 6% are preparing for the anticipated changes.

As I prepare to teach the summer AIM course Creating Business Solutions with Technology, I have been thinking a lot about disruption, particularly digital disruption. I define this as the forces of change, either within or outside the organization, which cause us to operate differently. Sometimes these are slight process changes or adjustments, but sometimes they completely change the way we do business and the way we serve customers. If only 6% of CFOs are preparing for these changes, I hope more CIOs and CEOs are planning ahead.

That’s Not How We Used To Do Things

Particularly for the IT department, technology changes are coming at a rapid pace. We need to become more efficient and deploy our resources and talents differently than ever before. No longer do we have a room full of hardware that we keep locked away from mere mortals. Our hardware and applications are now in the cloud and we are tasked with being service managers instead of systems or software managers. Because of the advances in networking, security, storage, and processing, our jobs have changed dramatically. At least they should have changed. If we are still doing our jobs the way we were 10 years ago, then there is a software or infrastructure service provider that would love to take our business.

Business Changes

Think about some of the things that you do differently as a consumer and you can begin to understand what businesses are facing in the way of new and different competition. The last time I went downtown to visit a travel agent was 10 years ago. I can’t think of the last time I phoned a hotel call center or front desk to make a room reservation. I do it all online. Sometimes I don’t even stay in traditional hotels but prefer a service like Airbnb. Taxi and even rental car services have been disrupted by new business models from companies such as Uber or Lyft. Tesla is threatening to disrupt the traditional dealership model by selling cars in small retail storefronts instead of huge showrooms with massive inventories supplied by the manufacturer. Not surprising, in a number of these disruptions, state legislators are trying to protect business as usual. That’s not how we do things around here, they say.

I send fewer letters than I did even a year ago. It is much easier to write and pay bills online. Mobile and online banking has disrupted the traditional bank downtown. I am sure that you can think of a lot more changes in your own lives due to advances in technology. These are the changes businesses need to grapple with or they risk becoming obsolete.

What To Do

Here are three steps that Accenture recommends to prepare for digital disruption:

  1. Conduct scenario planning to highlight areas of the operating model or current cost structure that need to be transformed.
  2. Create and implement an action plan to redefine your cost base with digital at the core. This is specific advice to the CFO, but applicable to all.
  3. Live and breathe customer obsession. Create strategies throughout the entire organization that focus on the customer first. What would make their lives easier and their transactions more efficient?

These strategies will help to ensure that you will be a viable competitor for the foreseeable future.


Let me know your thoughts. How has technology changed the way that you do business? How do you think things will be different five year from now? Are you ready?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Changing Role of the CIO

In our Information Systems and Management course we talk about the future of the office of chief information officer (CIO). Some argue that the title and office will disappear completely within the next five years. Others argue that when IT becomes embedded in every function of an organization, the CIO will be the most important person. Some argue that the CIO and the CEO role will merge. This question is and has been a moving target for years, but we can look at history and trends to get a good gauge as to the future.


In the early days of computing, one of the primary functions was to process and analyze financial data. Therefore, it was logical that the head technology person report to the controller or head financial officer.  Unfortunately, this trend continued long after the technology functions diversified into almost all areas of the organization. The CIO/CFO relationship has surged again in recent years with a Gartner survey last month reporting that 39 percent of surveyed IT organizations again report up through the CFO.


Technology has become pervasive throughout modern organizations and the IT function has gained views and responsibilities within all corners of the operation. The CIO is challenged to work not only with line of business executives but also the chief financial officer, the chief executive officer, and even the chief marketing officer. In a recent interview, the current CIO of Clorox and the former CIO of Pabst talked about their relationship with other organizations and how outside organizations are driving much of the IT spend and project mix.

As IT hardware and software becomes increasingly user friendly and data is being pushed more and more to the cloud, IT organizations will definitely have to reinvent themselves. They don’t “own” as many things but their influence is broader than it has ever been. The need to rise above the technology and help create business solutions is more critical now than ever before. Is your IT organization mature enough to fill that role in the future?


Last month AlixPartners’ blog post reiterated research first presented in the 2011 Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog on the future of the CIO.

In the HBR blog, the author contends that the CIO will be split up into four unequal quadrants:

  • – chief integration officer
  • – chief innovation officer
  • – chief infrastructure officer
  • – chief intelligence officer

For my money, I believe that it will only bifurcate into operations (chief operations officer?) and technology engineering (R&D?). The bulk of the resources will go towards operations, but that percentage will change as we move more towards distributed cloud computing and software as a service. The CIO (or new title) and IT organization will become even more valuable as they work on system and business function integration at a higher level.

What do you think the future holds for your CIO? Will there even be a designated role for this or will it be disbursed amongst other titles? Will they be more important or less important in the organization? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.