Welcome to CIO Version 2.0

Opinion: Next-gen functions will center on transparency and security.

The era of CIO 2.0 is upon us. Thats my conclusion after several days of discussions at the Ziff Davis CIO Summit held June 12-15 in Napa, Calif. Amid the wine tasting, golf and general chatter about the state of the technology industry, the underlying changes that IT managers and the CIO community have embraced were apparent.

It is appropriate that Version 2.0 of the CIO function is emerging at the same time as the discussion about Web 2.0 being replaced by (what else?) Web 3.0 definitions. The Web 2.0 talk was all about social interactions, user-driven multimedia content and, in general, putting users in charge.

The discussion about Web 3.0 is just getting under way. While some would claim all the talk about 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 versions of anything is simply marketing spin, Id argue that a new set of characteristics does require a new definition.

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So what is CIO 2.0, and why does it lag behind the consumer Web by a full version? The business world trailing the consumer world is old news. Remember how Amazon.com changed the business ERP world by showing consumers you could build an inventory system that could track an individual book order?

That Amazon.com order system model took about a year or two to make its way into the business world, where corporate officers started demanding ERP systems as simple to use and understand as Amazon.coms. Business users tend to lag behind consumers, but when they finally decide to move forward, they put money and planning behind a project.

Heres my interpretation of CIO 2.0, drawn from three CIOs who spoke at the forum. Although they didnt call it a 2.0 version of their jobs, their descriptions had common themes.

Transparency. Jerry Bartlett, senior vice president and CIO at Ameritrade Holding, spoke about the need to use transparency in decision making, particularly in situations involving mergers and acquisitions where positions will be consolidated and jobs are at stake. Also picking up the theme of transparency was Bill Vass, senior vice president and CIO at Sun Microsystems and a former CIO at the Pentagon.

Vass championed the security inherent in a transparent open-source software product. "If the Trojan horse had been transparent, they would have never let it in the walls," said Vass.

Version 2.0 CIOs need to be upfront with their staff, use open standards and replace the traditional walls built of technobabble with transparent information that business managers can understand.

Security. Security should be built around data protection rather than device protection. This is a big project but one with a crying need to be accomplished. Data theft has always been a problem, but with the loss of a Veterans Administration laptop full of vets data and other high-profile data losses, the agendas for the CIO 2.0 executive has data protection right at the top.

Vass suggested that data can be divided into at least six levels of access. David Thompson, executive vice president and CIO of Symantec, said data protection is a key goal for his company and is part of what he described as another Version 2.0. In Security 2.0, the focus for Symantec is to ensure the integrity of the entire online user interaction process, from identity through completed business interaction.

Decision making. The major emphasis of transparent business operations and data security comes with structured goals that make technology decisions central to a business strategy. While technology supporting business has always been a goal for the CIO, the tech decisions this time around involve not only products and services but also people skills, business unit buy-in, and the ability for companies to grow and prosper based on how fast they can merge and scale their IT operations.

As Ameritrades Bartlett said, his CEO told him that Ameritrade is really a "technology company in a financial services wrapper." That takes tech from a supporting role to a center stage role and puts the 2.0 CIO on an equal footing with any other corporate executive.

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at eric_lundquist@ziffdavis.com.

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