No CIO's were harmed in the making of this strategy

At a CIO symposium last year I was interviewed about my experience as a Chief Digital Officer in front of an audience of my peers. Peers whom the interviewer did his best to transform into an angry mob by presenting me as something akin to a pantomime villain.

As the mob grew increasingly restless, I felt compelled to reassure them that I was not a hatchet man and that not one CIO had lost their job as a result of the digital strategies I had implemented. Furthermore, that every IT department was still intact when I had finished.

On the first anniversary of the symposium, the impact of the CDO function on the CIO’s role is still being debated and still being positioned sensationally. Forbes warns that by 2020, 60% of CIO’s will be replaced by CDO’s for the delivery of IT-enabled products and digital services.

Statistics about the growth in CDO numbers are presented as if they were growing out of control, with rampant projections and shifting timeframes not corresponding to the actual growth rate of this function.

The article talks about CIO’s being relegated to “keeping the trains running on time”. Ironically, while at a different event, I had the opportunity to speak to the CIO of a national rail service. I asked him who his customers were and he replied "the train drivers".

What about the passengers who buy the tickets, I asked him? "They are not my concern" he replied. As far he was concerned the customers were inside his own organisation. For me this typifies the shift in thinking that CIO’s face.

The Forbes article divides CIO’s into “survivors” who are hanging on until the storm blows over and “thrivers” who are keen to drive change. The CIO role seems ripe forleadership innovation, and there’s certainly a future for those who emerge as digital leaders. For those that don’t, the last train may be about to leave.


Kieran O'Hea - Former Chief Digital Officer, City of Brisbane