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CIOs are Faced with an Exponentially Worsening Problem

Chief Information Officer (CIO) was once a role reserved for the person in an organization who maintains the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. More simply, they made sure everyone was online, had access to email, maintained the networks, and mostly conducted internal affairs with technology to keep a company running. Throughout the early 2000s, this role became increasingly inundated with mitigating cyber attacks and assuring the security of an organization’s data, adding Security to the role of the CIO. Every major hack of data and every new cyber vulnerability adds to the time a CIO must spend securing systems and networks.

Along with this new work, the CIO is also expected to oversee the website for many companies — a strange artifact of online marketplaces because the CIO then becomes the person in charge of the entire storefront (albeit in cyberspace) and takes on roles traditionally reserved for general managers or marketing departments. However, if the CIO does not have major visibility or complete oversight of the company website it can introduce vulnerabilities and make the security role more difficult.

Even more challenging, every new technology that emerges and threatens to disrupt a business falls into the lap of the CIO who is typically the first person to assess the effects of or create a plan to incorporate any new technologies. This add the responsibility of continual and competitive innovation to the CIO’s duties. This puts the CIO in a defensive stance and compromises time by having to continually assess the landscape of new technologies. Any company with a strong cyber presence is also typically generating a great amount of data which can be be monetized or used to improve the bottom line of a company, and the CIO’s role grows again to craft a data usage strategy. Assessing disruptive technologies and monetizing large amounts of data further consume a great deal of time from the CIO’s traditional duties and should each be significant, independent roles.

Now that the CIO has officially been inundated with all of these major responsibilities, new technologies continue to increase exponentially which have the potential to disrupt entire industries and business models. So the CIO, who is now handling both security and innovation, cannot typically think about the major complexities of disruptive technologies nor craft a strategy to survive and thrive as a company through this inundation.

At this point the ideas proposed by Ray Kurzweil start to become visible, that a Technological Singularity is coming where ordinary people will no longer have the ability to understand and adapt to technological change. Technology is increasing at an exponential rate, not merely increasing by a fixed amount every year but multiplying by itself continually as technology enables is to improve technology. CIOs with more traditional strategies will not be able to compete or, in many cases, survive through these profound technological changes.

Within this context, CIOs have mostly failed to adapt to cyber vulnerabilities and lagging technology innovation. New roles are emerging within companies such as Chief Security Officer to cover cybersecurity, Chief Innovation Officer to handle innovation, Chief Science Officer to understand scientific and technical change, and other creative positions to cope with the insanity of this expanding landscape. Most small and medium-sized businesses do not have the resources to add these roles and spend money on constant security and innovation. This is a situation that requires a complete shift to become more resilient from the fundamentals up, rather than the endless cycle of cyber bandages and bailing out water from the sinking ship of stagnant innovation.

Many new technologies offer promise in improving the infrastructure of an organization from the bottom up. This does not necessarily mean that entire networks or systems must be re-built from scratch, but these new technologies allow for migration of existing systems and networks onto new architectures. Specifically, the three key technologies for this solution are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) such as Blockchain. Incorporating these three into existing enterprises can allow for a transition of data from centralized to decentralized, offering enhanced security and mitigating most common incentives to steal large data sets from centralized servers. Adding IoT to this decentralized framework allows systems and networks to talk to each other and migrate into a decentralized architecture without having to completely change each component of the greater whole. And finally, certain AI or machine learning algorithms enable systems and networks to learn and adapt to their new environment, mitigating cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

CIOs have a very difficult road ahead and are already inundated with new roles and massive technological change. It is going to take a new mindset, and the firm adoption of new technologies to adapt and remain both resilient and innovative over even the next five years.

Starfish Insight is focused on this problem and specializes in strategy to survive and thrive through major scientific and technological disruption. Innovative CIOs need to craft and adopt a strategy to maintain security and innovation throughout this period of exponential technology growth and massive technological disruption. The hole in the ship needs to be fixed, rather than continually bandaged and bailed out, for the ship to steam through to a successful destination. If you are interested in tailoring a strategy for your business, Let's Begin...

Jason Pappafotis