The mid-market CIO

Whilst many of the terms bandied around in IT circles would mystify outsiders, the term “IT” itself is widely understood to mean, well, computers and all that. It is an acronym so widely used, especially in the broader business world that it is rarely spelt out – but just in case anyone is not quite sure – it stands for “information technology”. So why state the obvious?

The very ubiquity of the term means we too often fail to break it down and consider the components. Business people may often talk about IT, but what really matters to them is the first bit “information”. Information needs processing, storing, sharing and so on and that is where the “technology” comes in. However, it does not mean that for a given business the responsibility for providing the “technology” to handle “information” needs to reside with one person.

Indeed, in many businesses the two parts started to become separated some time ago as the role IT director began to give way in some organisations to that of a chief information officer (CIO). Of course, more important than a title is the way someone actually carries their job out. Nevertheless, those with the title CIO might be expected to focus on information and its value to the business rather than technology per se. In fact, with the increasing availability of cloud-based services it is quite possible for a CIO to ensure that the organisation they serve gets the value from information that they need without ever dirtying their hands with technology.

The term CIO emerged in large enterprise organisations, but in reality it is more likely that smaller mid-market organisations can shed the need to manage technology in-house and focus more and the processing of information and the business outcomes it can deliver. This is not just an idle thought; it is increasingly a reality as a recent freely available Quocirca research report, “The mid-market conundrum” shows (the research was sponsored by the IT service provider Attenda).

27% of the UK mid-market organisations interviewed said it was now very true that their “IT operation” was focussed on the best way of delivering applications to the business rather than IT platforms per se. These organisations can be said to have a CIO mind-set, whatever the job title of the individual in charge. In Quocirca’s view the other 73% could do better, although the majority of them said it was somewhat true that their organisation thought like this.

Freed from the need to focus on technology platforms and instead focussed on making sure information is managed and used optimally, the budding mid-market CIO can focus on delivering desired business outcomes, in the most practical way that best suits their organisation. To this end, the applications that actually process information are more and more likely to be run on third party platforms or be fully outsourced.

38% of mid-market “IT leaders” said they were deploying business applications on a case-by-case basis, selecting the platform that best suits the needs; and 19% said it was very true that they were less likely to run a given IT application in-house than two years ago, whilst 37% said this was somewhat true. It was even more likely to be the case for standard communications applications such as email, VoIP and web conferencing.

The evidence presented in the report is clear. As the mid-market IT manager evolves into a role that looks more and more like an enterprise CIO and the focus shifts from building technology platforms to managing information and applications to best serve the business, more and more of the technology will be outsourced to expert IT service providers.

Behind all this lies an often overlooked reality about the move to cloud based services. It is as much about more effectively using information to better ensure business outcomes as it is about procuring cheap scalable technology resources. Mid-market organisations that remain more focussed on technology rather that information will lose out to more agile competitors.

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