Adoption of cloud computing: How does it affect the CIO?

While adoption of cloud computing is a big win for companies, the evident side effect is that it does alter the CIO's responsibilities. But to what extent?

Cloud computing may have eclipsed inhouse technology setups quite a bit. It may even have brought in positive changes in the CIO's job. But there's no disputing the fact that cloud computing has altered the role of a CIO. Today's the general consensus is that adoption of cloud computing is allowing CIOs to participate in business strategies more than the erstwhile profile of just dealing with technology.

Currently, CIOs dedicate almost 70 percent of their time to technology and just 30 percent to business. As Neena Pahuja, the CIO of Max HealthCare Group says, "CIOs spend time managing infrastructure, servers and day-to-day technological issues. Adoption of cloud computing will allow them to focus more on business delivery."

Adoption of cloud computing translates into huge savings on capital expenditure. "Although companies save on capital expenditure, their operational expenditure rises since hosted applications aren't free. While selecting the required applications to be hosted on cloud one should remember the operational expenditure and the return on investment (RoI) in the long run," says Sunil Mehta, the senior vice president & area systems director (Central Asia) at JWT. This means that CIOs can venture into new projects. "Ordering new servers takes me typically six weeks, which is saved with the adoption of cloud computing," says Pahuja.

To understand a detailed SLA like the kind of applications to be used and connectivity to the cloud is a CIO's expertise
Prasanth Puliakottu
CIOSterlite Technologies

 Furthermore, if a company is using software as a service (SaaS) model on the cloud, it results in savings on application development. This adds to the bottom-line. Now, the question which arises is whether adoption of cloud computing poses a threat to the CIO's job and his responsibilities? Is it possible that a CFO can do the work without the need of a CIO?

Choosing technology is specific to a CIO. A CIO helps in strategies as well. So while adoption of cloud computing may get operational issues out of the way, strategic issues still remain. "To understand a detailed SLA like the kind of applications to be used and connectivity to the cloud is a CIO's expertise," says Prasanth Puliakottu, the CIO of Sterlite Technologies.

Citing an example on this front, Mehta says, "Suppose an MNC has developed a homegrown application and is hosting it centrally on the cloud. In this case, local issues won't be addressed automatically." This is because while the backend, patches and upgrades are managed by a third party, the organization has to maintain its application—although it's on cloud. Adoption of cloud computing might ease operations, but it doesn't mean that the application does not need tending. "There's also the question of buying applications, which cannot be left to a vendor's discretion," says Mehta. So it goes without saying that the CIO will remain without a parallel in the organization if he's able to evolve his job role with changing requirements.

To illustrate this, let's go back about 25 years ago, when there were no CIOs. Instead, there were only EDP managers. Today, the CIO has come a long way from the EDP manager days. He not only manages operations for his company, but also contributes to the company's bottom-line, business strategies and growth. New trends like cloud computing adoption are a part of this progression. This delegation of responsibilities is only likely to help the CIO's role evolve on the lines of chief of business technology (or business systems or even business enabler). So yes, cloud computing does not mean that the CIO acronym translates to 'Career Is Over'—not as yet.

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