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CIOs who stick around could end up as COOs

The career path for chief information officers looks promising as large businesses digitise more of their organisation and IT becomes integral to operations

Chief information officers (CIOs) who remain head of tech for the next four years may see their role evolve to chief operating officer (COO).

To tie in with its annual Americas Symposium, which ran on 19-20 October, analyst firm Gartner has listed a number of predictions for the future of IT.

If its predictions are to be believed, by 2024 a quarter of traditional large enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming “COO by proxy”.

According to Gartner, after years of decline, the COO role is rising in prominence in born-digital companies. The analyst firm said a COO is an essential component for digital success, as they understand both the business and the ecosystem in which it operates.

Gartner’s latest predictions suggest that the CIO, with an in-depth knowledge of the technology that facilitates business impact, can increase enterprise effectiveness.

“Technologies are being stressed to their limits, and conventional computing is hitting a wall,” said Daryl Plummer, distinguished research vice-president and Gartner fellow. “As more CIOs become accountable for the enterprise’s digital performance results, the trend of CIOs in highly digitalised traditional businesses reporting to the CEO will become a flood.”

Gartner also predicted that existing IT will hit a “wall of innovation”, which means an entirely new approach to computing will be needed to solve computational problems going forward. 

Plummer added: “The world is moving faster than ever before, and it’s essential that technology and processes are able to keep up to support digital innovation needs. Starting now, CIOs can expect a decade of radical innovation led by non-traditional approaches to technology.”

As a result, CIOs and IT executives will be unable to deliver on critical digital initiatives with current computing techniques. According to Gartner, technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision and speech recognition, which demand substantial computing power, will become pervasive, while general-purpose processors will be increasingly unsuitable for these digital innovations. 

“A variety of advanced computing architectures will emerge over the next decade,” said Plummer. “In the short term, such technologies could include extreme parallelism, deep neural network on a chip or neuromorphic computing. In the long term, technologies such as printed electronics, DNA storage and chemical computing will create a wider range of innovation opportunities.”

Given the rapid shift to collaboration platforms and online conferencing services during the coronavirus crisis, Gartner predicted that within five years, 75% of conversations at work will be recorded and analysed, enabling the discovery of added organisational value or risk.

The analyst firm suggested that analytics of conversations happening in the workplace and recordings of conversations that take place on collaboration platforms could be used to help organisations comply with existing laws and regulations and help them to predict future performance and behaviour.

“As the use of these digital surveillance technologies increases, ethical considerations and actions that bring privacy rights to the forefront will be critical,” it warned.

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