On May 21 I attended the 2014 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. This year’s theme was Lead Your Digital Enterprise Forward: Are You Ready for the Next Digital Revolution? “As the global trend towards digitization accelerates, organizations need to reinvent their Digital Enterprises, again,” wrote the organizers in the event’s website. “More than just new technologies are required; a whole cultural transformation is needed. . . The CIO is ideally placed to lead this technical and cultural transformation. However, being ideally placed is no guarantee of future success.”
Last year’s MIT CIO Symposium was focused on The Transformational CIO: Architecting the Enterprise of the Future. There were lots of discussions of the key technologies that are fundamentally transforming the business, especially big data and cloud computing. Some CIOs were aggressively embracing them, some were still struggling to separate hype from reality, and some were somewhere in-between, knowing that they had to adapt to these changes, but not being quite sure how and when to best do so.
The discussions this year felt quite different. Cloud and data science remind me of the rise of the Internet 20 years or so ago, when a lot was starting to happen around the exciting new Internet technologies, but it was not clear where things were heading, and in particular what the implications would be to the world of business. After a while, it became clear that the Internet was going to have a profound impact on business. Companies had to embrace the Internet even before they had sorted out all the issues. The marketplace was moving forward, with or without them, and being left behind was even more dangerous than moving into unchartered territory.
This is now the case with cloud and data, as well as with mobile, social, and all the other technologies that are systematically transforming the economy and driving every company to become a digital business. As a result, the job of the CIO is both more exciting, - and more dangerous. In one short year they have moved from architecting the enterprise of the future to having to lead the digital enterprise forward.