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Tell your CIO to get a new job (fast)

Just had an interesting banter about the future of technology with a technologist.

We like to think that technology is special.

It is.

In the words of Arthur C Clarke: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and he’s right.

It is why I’ve spent my life being in awe of the speed of technology change.

From old mainframe systems with punched card programming to the steady march of computing into the home and now the hand, I’ve loved seeing how magical technologies change the way we live, communicate, relate and think about our world.

It’s amazing impact on all industries, particularly entertainment, is another magical change in living that we’ve been lucky enough to observe and live through.

Downloading a newly released movie to watch on an iPad in an airport lounge whilst waiting for a delayed flight would have been inconceivable just a few years ago, but is now simple.

And with this change, we have seen roles, structures, industries and organisations change dramatically:  from the luxury of air travel to its steady commoditisation; from music in stores to music over the air; from the idea of collecting groceries to having them delivered; from the book to the kindle; and more.

Our lives are dramatically altered by such change, and our banking services are too … more gradually, but they are changing too.

Through this generation of change, we have also seen a gradual change in the role of the technology wizards who wield their magic.

From head of data processing to information processing to information technology to information, the chiefs of technology have gradually evolved from administrators of automation to strategic board advisors.

And yet all of this is about to change, and change dramatically, for the managers of technology will be made redundant in the near future.

Who needs technologists at board level when the technology is being made as easy as electricity?

When you can give all your processing to cloud-based services and when all technology is as easy to use as an electricity point, who needs a highly-paid manager of such magic?

In other words, when the magic becomes mainstream, the magicians become redundant.

This was a point we were both musing over as we talked about telephones and electricity.

When the telephone was first deployed, it was put into the mailrooms of companies as it was seen as a replacement for post.

Later on, heads of networking and telecommunications became commonplace, and some still are, but the head of telephone sanitisation has disappeared.

Similarly, the head of electricity has disappeared.

In the land of long ago, most manufacturing firms had a head of electricity as they had to move from steam and water power, to this new-fangled voltage stuff.

They would need wiring and planning of wires; assistance on which voltage classifications to use; and consultancy about the layout of points to which machinery could be attached.

All of this was complex stuff … but it’s now not magical or even of interest.

We just live with it and use it, and the electricity firms handle all the issues of how to get it our plug points.

That’s what will happen with compute technology of 2012.

Today, we have magicians who organise it all for us but, already, we can see cloud computing, HTML5, apps, smartphone and table PCs eradicating the magic and making it something that we just enjoy as part of life.

So very soon, the magicians will disappear as the technology firms handle all the issues of how to get the magic to our touch points.

Bye, bye CIO.

Hello … ?



About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Al

    Hello Google?

  • Manzoor

    people stay, roles change. We should not be quick to kick “experience” out of the door, remember these roles helped the organization in getting to this level. When there is a tall tree in the park you dont chop the roots/trunk out..

  • I think the bank of the future will need to have technologists who understand the business issues having lifted their heads out of their own institutions problems and observed what actually constitutes successful banking. This will also require experienced System Integration talent as the total solution currently resides across multiple specialist suppliers. It will also require a deep understanding of more than the customer interface- pretty and clever as it will be.
    So yes the number of technologists may not change but their job descriptions certainly will.

  • Hello Google & Apple?

  • Great article and I agree with the comments from Robin and Hansel. The need for “technologists” will be an ever increasing skill as technology rapidly advances, however, my thoughts are that these roles will be assimilated into business functions eventually without the need to separate “IT” departments, especialy around software. Configurators using business modelling rather than developement shops internal to corporations.

  • Paul Gallen

    Note – Facebook user = Paul from New Zealand,

  • I don’t think we will see the end of the CIO role but rather a very different type of CIO. We are already beginning to see these new types of CIO emerging and many banks are either giving CIOs and COOs joint responsibility for delivering results (as see at Barclays) or are appointing former CIOs as COOs. For more on the different types of models of CIOs see http://www.itsafinancialworld.net/2011/10/new-type-of-cio-is-required-for-todays.html

  • Interesting post, signalling a big change. Through all the recent years, many managers lost their jobs to technology-based managers. Now the reverse may happen, if what you say is realized. A note to other comments: Whether the job description will change does not matter in terms of how big this change is. What matters is; will the new guy who will be responsible for technology has to be a technology guy, with regards to education and experience. Or a manager with a different background will be able to cover technology, in addition to something else.

  • Normskee

    That post kept my mind busy for a while.
    I’ll challenge it.
    Tell you why!
    Chris compares modern IT with telephone and electricity.
    Yes that has become commoditised. But only parts.
    Yet the telephone engineer and the electrical engineer still live and thrive, actually more than ever.
    Just not in the manufacturing plant anymore.
    And yes maybe parts of IT as well.
    But which parts? As the cloud shows, the IT parts about storage and hosting become commodity. They are like electricity and phones. It’s only about cable and wiring, and physical storage, and maybe also a little bit about data security.
    So you may as well get rid of the CTO and outsource that stuff, but mind you, the need to steer, develop and maintain that that jungle remains. So like the electrical engineer, the expert manager for this part of technology is still needed. He now just works for IBM or BT instead of HSBC or RBS.
    But there is the other part of IT that is not so commoditisable. And that’s the “brains part”. Call it business rules, business logic etc. This needs to be translated from some kind of organisatial process asset into an error free executable code. It needs to be permanently maintained and supported. Something which can only be done if you know what’s happening in the black (code) box.
    And yes, even if me move to a scenario of pure configurators like one of my fellows commented above: Still someone has to design and code these little apps.
    Yes we will go further productivity steps also in software engineering. Think about the jump from procedural to object oriented languages. And from first code editors to something like NetBeans today. Incredible, NetBeans not only points out errors in syntax it also proposes objects that you should use. But still again. Here you need to have people that can program.
    But business logic into code.
    This won’t disappear. The same way as the electrical engineer hasn’t disappeared.
    The CIO is to stay. Maybe in a different role than before, closer to business, incorporating operations. But he doesn’t need to get a new job.
    At least not fast.

  • Chris Skinner

    Excellent insight Normskee and you spotted the flaw in my observation.
    Yes, there will always be people who understand the business and see how the information flows within the business can be optimised through infrastructure.
    Infrastructure that includes electricity, telecommunications and technology, which are all commoditised.
    The issue is that the term CIO reflects to much the Chief Infrastructure Officer – someone who’s just managing the commoditised electricity, telecoms and tech – and not enough the Chief Information Officer who is truly aligned to the business, and the business leverage of information assets.
    This is why I was really calling for a rethink of the role and a retermed function – something more like Chief of Aligning Information to the Revenues Officer, but CAIRO didn’t sound like a good title lol.