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Five Big New Responsibilities for Today's CIO

The 10th Annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium revealed five trends that will give CIOs new responsibility to bring order to cloud deployments, big data and the bring-your-own-device movement. 

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Here's the profile of the modern CIO. He or she is an expert at doing more with less and is adroit at whittling down the traditional costs associated with keeping the lights on. But the CIO is also absolutely ahead of the rest of the company in implementing cloud computing, mobility, social networks and big data.

The CIO is also a security expert, as well as a department-to-department ambassador, and is always ready to listen to even the most out there technology idea. The CIO knows more about business than the CEO and more about digital marketing than the CMO, and takes the lead in retraining the current IT staff and nurturing the kid in the mailroom, who is the social network wizard. And, oh yeah, the email system never goes down, the data is always real time, and the data center is all virtualized.

If all that sounds like a tall order, it is. But it is the profile that most resembles the CIO, which emerged from the 10th Annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. After sitting through keynotes and panels with titles like "The Use of Power and Influence During the Process of Innovation," "The Reality of Big Data" and "The Successful CIO—Driving Innovation and Managing Expectations," I was left with the image of the current CIO role as an increasingly powerful and maybe an increasingly impossible job.

"You have to do all the old plus the new," said Shawn Banerji, managing director of Russell Reynolds Associates, in introducing the panel on the hallmarks of a successful CIO. Banerji's description was backed up by Michael Golz, the CIO of the America's for SAP, who noted that all the discussions about innovation stop when the email system goes down.

Those panel discussions highlighted what appeared to me as a basic restructuring and repositioning of the CIO. While past years might have highlighted a sideline role for CIOs as social marketing blossomed and CMOs took over more chunks of the technology budget and BYOD trends spelled the decline of employee hardware spending, that sideline role seems to be ending. Here are the five main trends I took home from the conference that I think illustrate the new CIO role.

1. Big data will reinforce the CIO position. Big data systems require common data stores, an overarching privacy policy, and a capability to blend internal and external data. Those activities will take place under the CIO's auspices.

2. The departmental "charge it on the credit card" approach to bringing in enterprise Web services is causing corporate chaos. The CIO will be charged with creating a technology umbrella and policy to end the software services chaos.

3. Cloud computing offers technology advantages, but the issues surrounding contract negotiations, legal liabilities and compliance will be shuttled to the CIO organization by department managers scared to sign the bottom line and take on a legal liability.

4. BYOD will continue to blossom, but CIOs will be charged with creating a "data security wrapper" that will allow for a wide range of mobile devices but assure data security.

5. The CIO will once again find a seat in the boardroom as companies recognize that the adept implementation of technology is often the only way to gain a strategic advantage in today's economic climate.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authors this blog for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.