The CIO Could Be Gone In Five Years – Is That Good News For Apple In Business?



A recent study of finance chiefs at over 200 companies revealed that one in six expect the job of CIO to be gone within five years. More than twice that many (40%) expected that IT will eventually be folded into the finance department. This highlights the impact of trends like BYOD, the consumerization of IT, and the growing importance of cloud services.

As IT departments struggle to deal with an ever-increasing influx of iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and other “consumer” technologies, this raises big questions. Would handing management of IT over to a CFO with limited technical experience help or hinder Apple’s position as a business vendor? Would that drive BYOD programs or inhibit them? Would this ultimately be beneficial to most employees at a company?

The view leading to this merging of IT seems to be centered around finance managers taking a more active role in other departments as part of cost cutting efforts resulting from the state of the economy over the past few years. As a major cost center that typically has no clear return on investment, IT is a natural choice for scrutiny. Add to the fact that cloud services are making it easier to outsource or streamline many IT functions, and you’ve got a recipe for CFOs to consider taking charge and doing some serious cost cutting.

If the traditional CIO or IT director role is cut, there likely will be more re-imagining of how to provide and manage technology with an emphasis on reducing large infrastructure and personnel expenditures. Without a long experience of what IT has looked like for the past few decades, finance chiefs may very well be open to bigger and faster shifts than the typical IT leader whose been knee-deep in the field for years on end.

That could be good or bad. It certainly improves the likelihood that technologies and approaches disruptive of long-standing models will be considered and adopted. That could easily translate into a more platform-agnostic way of doing things, particularly since cloud services are generally not tied to specific devices or operating systems. That means more potential for things like the iPad and iPhone, particularly if they’re employee-owned.

On the other hand, most finance teams will probably do more extensive number crunching of all options to see if things like BYOD programs, mobile app deployment, mobility in general, or transitions to one or more cloud technologies are worth the investment. If any of these new approaches turn out to have hidden costs and/or be more expensive, someone whose job is centered on financial leadership is going to be harder to convince to pursue them.

With cost and productivity forefront, however, this type of transition might end up being a win for users. If various department managers (or even users themselves) can make a compelling case or even offer proof that new devices and technologies like iPhones, iPads, Mac and specific iOS or OS X apps can offer ways to get work done more efficiently, they’re more likely to be allowed to try them.

Whether a CFO has the knowledge or skills to make sound IT decisions is a different matter entirely, particularly when it comes to things like network and device management, security, or even technical support.

  • Sean Smith

    Getting rid of the CIO position and folding it into the CFO or finance department would be one of the dumbest decisions a company could make. Also, one must take into consideration that it was entirely CFO’s who answered this “poll” — sounds to me like they’re simply trying to provide themselves with some job security. The fact of the matter is, it is much more likely that the position of CFO will disappear and be rolled into the position of CIO. Think about it… what’s more likely to be replaced by software? A numbers-cruncher or a critical thinker?

  • Resistor One

    The ongoing war between the Finance department and IT department is even older than the Mac vs. Windows war. 

    In the beginning, as MIS emerged as an entity on to itself, the Director of MIS would traditionally report into the Chief Finance guy. Over the years, technology grew to become a corporate discipline of its own, it was broken out and the CIO position was created.

    Technology is so vastly different than Finance it makes absolutely no sense to even speak of putting the CIO under Finance. This is just a bunch of Finance guys having fun with yet another meaningless survey. 

    If anything, I could see the technology area being rolled under the Chief Operating Officer, but not Finance. 

    Ask your Finance guy one morning, “Is our technology architecture and plan future proof?” He’ll have no idea. Ask him about the depth and complexity of your security plan. You won’t get an answer. It’s two entirely different fields. 

    This is not to say that the consumerization of IT and cloud solutions won’t change the way an organization’s “Infostructure” is implemented in the future. Those things are good for Apple. The traditional IT department is evolving. It won’t function as a police or enforcement organization as much as a facilitator.

    As the older IT people die out, or get replaced due to lack of vision and imagination, IT departments will stop marching in lockstep to build Redmond specified, blessed, and proprietary solutions. The cloud is OS agnostic.

    Instead of Windows compatibility, issues like app availability and user experience will become important. If your company is using for CRM, browser compatibility is important. App availability is important. Windows is utterly irrelevant. Even when organizations find it necessary to build their own solutions, they will build cloud based services hosted by cloud hosting companies with mobile devices as the targeted delivery platform.

  • FalKirk

    Is the departure of the CIO good or bad for Apple? Apple is the reason for this trend.

  • snookasnoo

    Puh-lease.  Of course finance weenies say something so dumb.  They see IT as a cost center.  It will never happen and has no implications for Apple.  Which is really a stretch to try to say anyway.  Must be a slow news day at COM.

  • Timothy Weaver

    First, there’s no “trend”. It’s simply a prediction based on this survey. Second, any CIO who is focused on managing technology should have their job disappear. It appears this survey and the article are focused on the commoditization of technology (of which the consumerization is one aspect). CIOs who actively embrace the SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS models and instead focus their efforts around the “information” part of their title will do very well.

  • Tim

    This is a valid statement and one that’s been ongoing for years through at least 2004.  I work in Managed Services and I can tell you that IT is now deeply commoditized and driven less buy value and more by cost.  IT departments are being categorized as cost centers and are being less aligned with P&L revenue centers.  IT isn’t strategic anymore.

    I went back to school and got my MBA in finance and marketing, not IT even though I have over 30 years in IT.  We’ve off-shored our development and organizations are making the move now to use Managed Services providers instead of hiring IT staff.  It doesn’t make any sense hiring a $60K person to cover one shift when you can hire a Managed Services provider for $30K and have dozens of people working for you 24/7.  It’s driven by cost and value.  The economic downturn made this transition much more rapid.

  • Daniel Shachtman

    The concept of running a firm without dedicated IT managers (CIO, CTO, etc…) is similar to the overall concept of off-shoring/outsourcing IT staff and services that already seems a viable alternative considered by many growing companies.  The difference is now we are talking about trimming down a management position that previously has been above the fray of everyday worker expenses to consider trimming for cost savings.  The decision to go without a CIO at a particular firm will ultimately depend on how large and complicated the firm is and by how well a firm thinks it can get by when outsourcing those critical IT decisions that a CIO normally makes to a more generic model. 

    Larger firms, especially financial firms ironically will most likely always need a CIO or equivalent person making technology decisions from the firm’s perspective because frankly to much rides on those decisions to entrust them to someone whom is not a member of the company. 

    However, as with all outsourcing the main tangible benefit seems to be the even lower barriers to entry for a single person or small group to start a firm and enter the marketplace.  Now 1 person can more legitimately be a company’s CEO, CFO, CIO, and the company’s only employee, as long as the software and services ultimately provided to this person are enough for him to run the business effectively by himself.  The commoditization of IT will continue, and over time more and more capabilities will become standardized so they require less specific knowledge to understand.  The only question is as to when the individual person in my example will feel tech savvy enough to make these previously CIO domain decisions for themself.