As companies become more data-driven, the CIO role keeps on changing

What's the CIO's role in today's data-driven, mobile, social, cloud business environment? That was a major theme for MIT Sloan CIO Symposium tweeters.

Other memorable tweets from the CIO Symposium

@Joe_Falcao: Innovation should be across the enterprise! CIO should be the connector. # mitcio

@ValaAfshar: The best questions don't have immediate answers. Innovation begins with the desire to explore. # MITCIO

@cebess: Remember, there is an infinite number of hackers and u just have your security staff. # MITCIO

@jtongici: Business is coming full circle. It started as social, then became transactional, it is now becoming social again. # mitcio

@paul_hemp: Behind every successful CMO is a great CIO. If I'm the spark, the CMO is the flame and heat and expertise. @ ValaAfshar # mitcio

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- What's the CIO's job like in today's data-driven, cloud-enabled, mobilized, social business? "Schizophrenic" comes to mind: CIOs are being asked to juggle the old responsibilities of keeping systems online, while embracing new ones, such as productizing information assets and enhancing the customer experience, according to Shawn Banerji, managing director at the Boston-based consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates.

Banerji moderated the CIO panel discussion at the 10th annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, where this year's theme was The Transformational CIO: Architecting the Enterprise of the Future. No longer a mere service provider, today's CIOs must tear down the walls between business and technology and become consultants, facilitators, brokers and, more pointedly, innovators and business partners -- terms all used by panel participants and echoed in tweets during the symposium to describe the role shift now underway.

Here's a look at how the discussion spilled over onto Twitter and, in some cases, vice versa.

The event's opening panel of CEOs touched on a kind of a chasm between the head of business and the head of technology. CEOs see the value of agility, but at least some depend on their CIOs to be champions of stability, rather than fast-moving risk takers.

As technology becomes increasingly central to lines of business and touches just about every aspect of how a company functions, however, the traditional role of the CIO has to change.

CIOs shouldn't stop there: They also need to get on the innovation bandwagon and learn to recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere -- from shadow IT and even from outside their own department. The big question is how can IT take a good idea and turn it into a product for the business.

The pervasiveness of IT isn't a one-way street; instead, it's a growing interdependency between the IT and the business, and CIOs have to figure out how to adjust and lead their departments into the new reality.

Part of the difficulty IT has in making the transition from a service-oriented role to the role of broker or business partner is in trying to remove the "tech" from the technologist.

More than finding and retaining good talent, Georgia Papathomas, vice president and CIO at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals, finds communication skills between IT and the business to be severely lacking. But for others, taking the "IT-speak" out of IT is not enough. Sanjay Mirchandani, executive vice president and chief operating officer at EMC, suggested members of IT stop thinking like technologists and start thinking like customers.

While building stronger relationships with the business, or embracing innovation and adding value to the company are vital, another aspect that's changing is how to look at finances.

By approaching IT finance as an investment, success is tied directly to business performance. Along with change came calls for IT to continue playing its traditional role. Part of the bread and butter of IT departments has been in building a holistic view of the business, which is still a vital component of their job today -- especially in the face of new trends such as big data and new technology such as the cloud.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Nicole Laskowski, senior news writer.

This was first published in May 2013

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