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Are CIOs ready for a hybrid cloud future?

The fear of being out-competed by a born-digital upstart is so strong in today’s business climate, it requires a new verb. Businesses will do anything to keep from getting “Ubered” — that is, falling victim to the kind of harm inflicted on the taxi industry by the popular ride-sharing app.

“There is a great fear in companies right now — ‘Who’s the Uber in our space?'” Judith Hurwitz, president of consulting company Hurwitz & Associates and writer of numerous books on IT, told me at the recent Hybrid Cloud Summit in Cambridge, Mass. “It’s the threat that you don’t know is even there that has people worried.”

CIOs who don’t want their organizations blindsided need to help the business be flexible and move swiftly to changes in demand — and unexpected competition. Hybrid cloud computing can help them get there, Hurwitz said. In fact, the mix of public and private cloud deployments not only offers the right blend of cost-savings, instant scalability and security to meet the rising needs of the business, it is the future of computing itself.

Are CIOs ready for such a future?

“It depends on the CIO,” she said. “The most successful CIOs that I have worked with, talked to, they are the ones that they are very fluent in the business, they understand it well, they have a seat at the table. They are able to be the person that isn’t just folding their hands and saying no, but they’re saying, ‘Let’s do this, but let’s do it this way.'”

Hurwitz explained that while CIOs need to ensure that their organizations’ systems and data are protected, they are equally at risk if they don’t talk to the business, know what the business goals are and make the right executive decisions about how to achieve them with IT.

“What decisions are you making? Are you holding on to those decisions for too long?” she said. “Are you afraid to change? Because there’s definitely a lot of fear of change in IT.”

On the flip side, CIOs who speak the business language but don’t closely follow the technology will also find themselves in hot water.

“If they spend all of their time acting as the CEO,” Hurwitz said, “are they really in a place where they can help make the strategic decisions? Or do they then rely on the technologists who are deep into some cool new stuff, but where’s the sense of perspective? So you have to balance those out.”

Let us know what you think of the story; email Jason Sparapani, features writer, or find him on Twitter @jmsparapani.