We all saw it coming a mile away. For the past 20+ years, information technology has been revolutionizing the way companies do business.

This boom has been the catalyst by which companies like Microsoft, Oracle and IBM became the giants they are today. For the enterprise to play in the business of tomorrow they needed the best of the best technology solutions.

With this, a need for technology leadership became glaringly apparent as the CFOs and COOs, whom historically held the responsibility for business technology, became less and less qualified to determine which solutions made sense and which solutions did not. With this shift came the rise of a new “C” in the executive suite, the CIO.

25, heck 15 years ago, no one had even heard of the CIO. However as corporate IT went from non-existent to a handful of room size computers to dedicated server architecture and ultimately to what is now a world connected, the need for corporate leadership over the enterprise IT and systems became easy to justify.

For a while the role made a lot of sense. With companies being required to build and/or customize their ERP, CRM and other business line software, it required a strong team with strong leadership to handle the projects and make sure that IT was aiding in revenue growth and cost avoidance. By simplifying systems and keeping up with the latest technologies companies could grow more seamlessly.

Life was good

IT projects were vast and constant and corporate IT became almost small businesses within themselves full of network engineers, desktop support specialists and customer software developers.

For the CIO life was good. Business was booming and the customer was captive because the organization had become completely dependent on the CIO for all of its systems. And then one day, without the CIO even realizing it, the role that they had grown so fond of vanished.

The Rise of the CMO in a World Gone Productive

So what happened right under the nose of the CIO that caused their role to so rapidly diminish?

While no one thing singlehandedly accounted for their undoing, there were exactly 3 things that turned the CIO into a commodity gone useless. The “C” trifecta that has no place for big overhead and slow transformation.

1. Consumerization: The CIO has long handled primarily custom or semi-custom application environments that required heavy local applications, giant dedicated data-centers and huge technical teams to run them. With simple consumer driven applications running contacts, sales management, business process and financial systems in design rich, easy to use packages, the desire to continue investing in the “Cost Center” component of corporate IT becomes something the CEO and CFO seek to stop. On top of just the shift to these more user friendly applications, companies from the top down are looking to create flexible environments where down to the very last employee, each one can choose applications that help them to be more productive and then use them without corporate IT being a thorn in their side.

2. Cloud: At this point just about every major business software has been reinvented by cloud. While most legacy enterprise softwares seek to find a way to host their clunky applications, new breeds of companies, many here in the Valley have spent their time building user friendly applications that can run in the cloud and manage every aspect of a business’s operation. Whether it’s Salesforce, Box, Google or Clearslide, these cloud based applications come with their own development, tech support and hosting making the technical requirements much less important than the implementation and productivity mapping of tools that are deployed.

3. The Rise of the CMO: You want to know the difference between a CIO and a CMO? The CMO does everything with revenue generation and productivity in mind while the CIO focuses on system support and cost containment. In a world gone fast and organizations gone flat, the CMOs that are thinking in terms of 1 and 2 above (Bringing user friendly apps and making them available anywhere) are quickly earning mindshare of CEOs who are interested in revenue growth and productivity. With organizations quickly becoming media outlets (we see this everyday working with CMOs at Ustream — more on this later) creating content and social presences to drive their message and their customer experiences forward, time must be spent on what drives results. Smaller, simpler IT leveraging cloud and consumerization is the CMOs best friend and the CIOs worst nightmare.

CIO vs CMO Round 1

Is the CIO Really Dead?

The real answer is not yet, but the prediction is one that I stand behind. However, I do add this caveat:

CIOs that are recognizing the trends above and getting on board with them do have more staying power than those resisting the change. There is real value in their technical know how that can be leveraged to help organizations to be more productive.

The window for shift is short though and CIOs must recognize the change or they will go by the way of the Blackberry, The Dell PC and the CD-Rom.

CIOs, What are you doing to stay relevant and evolve? Or you will just report to the CMO soon. Inquiring minds want to know.

Next Post: When Did CMOs Become Media Outlets?

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