The Third Platform and The Future of the CIO Role

The Third Platform is what research firm IDC has called the new range of services such as cloud computing, social business and mobility. It’s been a fantastic set...

The Third Platform is what research firm IDC has called the new range of services such as cloud computing, social business and mobility. It’s been a fantastic set of developments for businesses, with new technology improving productivity at the same time as being considerably cheaper than what we were used to. But what will all of these changes mean in the long run, especially for the CIO role?

This position varies enormously in scope, generally in line with company size. The top-level IT manager at a large firm, with specialist departments, regional subsidiaries, and over 5,000 employees, will work alongside departmental managers to provide effective IT systems across a diverse range of needs. But in other companies, this level of cooperation doesn’t exist – the CIO is master of his domain. Which is, when we look at what’s being offered by Third Platform technologies, somewhat outdated/

Changing Roles

In fact, cloud and social business tools basically enforce a dynamic and cooperative IT management style. Departments within a firm become virtually self-reliant, turning to what’s available if the internal IT system can’t meet their demands. Departmental managers and indeed individual employers can bypass the CIO’s domain in order to maintain productivity, often effectively procuring their own cloud products in order to work better. IT departments need to recognise this and have conversations with departmental heads in order to establish the needs of that department, and to ensure that any solutions procured directly fit with the organisation’s IT security.

This business-savvy, social element to the role is part of a growing trend in IT managers’ backgrounds – the number of IT managers who have never written a line of code will continue to rise. What’s more important to companies is an IT manager who understands what business benefits he or she can bring to the organisation.

Revenue Beats Compliance

There are plenty of people claiming that compliance regulations could be violated by the public cloud. And they’re right – they could be. But that means that there’s something wrong with the compliance regulations, probably stemming from the fact that they were drawn up in an era before Third Platform technology. Ultimately, if heads of department, line managers, the CIO and auditers alll decide that the existing infrastructure doesn’t work as well as public cloud services would, then the whole system needs to be redesigned.

And the arguments in favour are pretty clear. Public cloud services help businesses remain productive and competitive in a particularly harsh economic environment, and in a survey of 900 IT managers across Europe, Barracuda found that this was one of the most important factors in small and medium companies of 500 employees or fewer. And with 45% of European IT managers in the survey planning to use the public cloud in the future, it feels as if those compliance regulations could be a tad outdated.

Team Work

Teamworking tech is one of the most essential parts of the cloud for many organisations, along with distributed working processes. Mobility and BYOD systems are integral to the Third Platform, partly because BYOD and most mobility issues can only be resolved using cloud tech. The CIO needs to work with other parts of the business in order to implement these new opportunities – something that doesn’t necessarily tally with previous iterations of the IT department’s role.

Now, departments play a formative role in IT projects. This is partly because they see the needs most clearly – having feet on the ground makes it particularly easy to envisage a successful cloud implementation. In the Barracuda survey, 30% of respondents said that they thought departmental and divisional managers were supportive of public cloud services, and it’s easy to understand why.

Zero Trust

The CIO will have to adopt a new level of mistrust in order to safeguard the organisation’s infrastructure. Every application is suspect, every piece of hardware has been compromised, all users visit unsecured sites and use their work password for everything. Everything is suspicious, because with the advent of public cloud computing, BYOD and other reforms, comes a fresh wave of risk from criminals, vandals and even competitors.

The Organisation is Changing

These new, disruptive technologies are changing how the whole business operates. From an IT perspective, one of the main ways in which the organisation has changed is how individual departments can procure effective solutions on their own. Business users can meet their IT demands by themselves, often in a matter of seconds from the comfort of their desk.

But they don’t realise that each time someone sets up an account for a public cloud service, or introduces unauthorised third-party hardware to the network to save time, they risk compromising the security of the network. And this is where the CIO’s role will change – responsibilities and privileges will evolve according to the prevailing business climate.

Many of the CIO’s traditional roles will be handed back to departments, which are often in a better position to really understand business needs. The CIO will become a collaborative, business-intelligent provider, responsible for that zero-trust mentality but never losing sight of the organisation’s goals. Eventually, the IT department will shrink and eventually dissolve into the wider company, as departmental barriers are broken down and IT provision becomes part of every employee’s role.

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