The CIO in 2020: a brave new world?

The year is 2020. The world is preparing for the results of the US presidential election and UEFA Euro 2020 has seen some exceptional football with England making it to the final.

The CIO of a fast-growing company takes a quiet moment, having ordered a clean meat burger grown from plant proteins to be delivered by drone, to reflect on the last two years in the world of technology. The company’s relationship with the cloud and the way it manages digital transformation, cybersecurity and talent have all changed fundamentally, as has her role as the CIO.

“By 2020 the role of the CIO will be almost unrecognisable,” says Gary Richardson, managing director for artificial intelligence, data and analytics at 6point6, a leading technology consultancy. “Without being the executive concerned with issues relating to datacentres, enterprise applications and IT procurement, the CIO will act more like the founder of a startup.

“They’ll be ensuring that digital products are delivered, managing product teams as well as delivering outstanding customer experience. They’ll be selling technology-driven outcomes and will be very much at the centre of the business, saying ‘yes’ and enabling, rather than saying ‘no’.”

Once considered a cost-centre owner, ensuring that systems such as email, file servers, print and telephony stay up, companies have put technology firmly at the heart of the business. In 2020 our CIO is now focused on innovation and embracing emerging technologies having been freed from delivering undifferentiated services.

CIOs must concentrate on the three Cs, taking the cost out, increasing competitiveness and improving compliance

CIOs must concentrate on the three Cs, argues Mr Richardson. “That means taking cost out, increasing competitiveness and, as more companies become more heavily regulated, improving compliance,” he says. With a relentless focus on delivering business value using a product mindset, our CIO has now become the chief innovation officer.

“Today digital transformation is so fundamental that it’s increasingly the responsibility of the chief executive rather than the CIO,” points out Chris Porter, 6point6’s managing director for digital transformation. “The chief executive wants the CIO to move ahead with this transformation, otherwise they’ll start spawning other roles with similar titles whose job it is to do it.

“This means that we’ll see more non-technologist CIOs emerge because they’ll be able to outsource the technical work and concentrate on the business skills needed to keep the company’s business model relevant. The length of time these models lasts is being reduced dramatically from two decades to less than two years.”

As part of this digital transformation, over the last few years our CIO has moved the company away from running its own datacentres. Managing racks of computers and cooling systems, as well as trying to ensure their security, added no value to the company and would have been a distraction. With external specialists managing them, our CIO has been able to focus on innovation and driving the business forward with new products and services.

However, during this digital transformation our CIO of 2020 didn’t rush to the cloud as did many other firms. The competition was dazzled by new technology and bamboozled by what Justin Day, managing director of 6point6’s Cloud Gateway, a complete secure pathway for cloud enablement, calls “cloud evangelists”. Instead, our CIO put the needs of the business first and ensured the transition was driven by realising value along the way.

“Often when you talk to CIOs and chief technology officers, their opening gambit will be ‘We need to leverage the cloud more’,” says Mr Day. “I’m certainly not a cloud sceptic and I love what the cloud can offer, however the pace of adoption needs to be measured, and we need to strike the right balance between governance and control.”

Take billing. “Traditionally you’d have to buy a server by raising a purchase order going through procurement which was time consuming and costly. With the cloud, you just click a button and you’ve got more storage. It might look cheap, but spin up ten servers, leave them going 24 hours a day and your bill could be substantial. You need to look at the whole business strategy and see where cloud can work in it. That’s why we created Cloud Gateway, so companies can migrate to the cloud at the pace and in the manner that suits them.”

As well as changes in the relationship with the cloud, the CIO of 2020 has watched cyber move up the agenda. Companies have struggled with how much to invest in cyber and how to justify that investment. “Spending will increase as companies transact more online and companies look to become more responsive to threats,” says Eddie Lamb, managing director for cybersecurity at 6point6.

“Sustainable cost-modelling allows CIOs to demonstrate a return on investment. They perform a balancing act between cost and security. They need to identify what is in-sourced and what presents more value being outsourced.”

Stakeholders often have more confidence, our CIO has noticed, because the company has a direct connection with those handling its cyber and the process is now constantly accessible. Companies can still use a cloud platform with all the benefits it offers, such as hosting management systems, while keeping the service in-house.

“It builds value into the company and addresses the skills gap through training,” explains Mr Lamb. “Companies will also need to create the right culture – security isn’t an add-on. It must be integral throughout the business and product development.”

As the clean meat burger arrives in a drone, our CIO begins to eat, while she considers how the CIO’s role will continue to evolve.


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