State of IT: what will the post-cloud CIO look like?

28 Sep 2012

Robert Baker, CEO of Baker Security and Networks

The IT leader of the future will have a job spec that resembles a financial controller rather than a classic technologist; that’s the view of Robert Baker, talking as part of the latest in’s ‘State of IT’ series on the changing role of the CIO.

Baker is CEO of Baker Security and Networks and has a track record that includes three decades in information technology.

He warned that the momentum behind cloud computing is too strong for reluctant CIOs to resist, even if they fear the consequences for their jobs. “With or without them, the train is leaving, there’s no question about that. I’m very firmly of the view that cloud is not going to be driven by IT managers; in fact, if anything it’ll be resisted by them,” he said.

Some commentators believe the cloud presents a serious threat to the role of the IT department because it involves moving infrastructure and applications to an off-site provider. This, rather than security concerns, could be the real reason why cloud projects are resisted in some organisations.

“Every manager has the right to remain in control of their own pace of change, but a lot of managers fool themselves by thinking that ‘I’m in control of this’ whereas they’re actually not doing it. The only controlled decision is ‘no, I’m not doing it’,” said Baker.

Baker speaks from a position of some authority: he was involved in setting up the first Irish Government department with internet access more than 20 years ago. His company has now become one of the premier partners of Google Apps in Ireland and has been developing a management tool for the Google ecosystem.

CIOs and changes

While you might expect him to talk up the benefits of the cloud, he said there are plenty of benefits for CIOs willing to anticipate the changes ahead. “I think it is a positive story myself. It’s going to reduce support headaches, it’s going to reduce operational costs. If [IT leaders] turn it around and embrace cloud, they can be the hero in the business rather than the villain of the piece that’s holding up the show.”

Looking ahead to when cloud services are more widely used among all organisations, Baker believes the role of IT won’t go away but will change to resemble another, familiar business function.

“You’re still going to need somebody who’s responsible for the information owned by the business, just like the accountant is responsible for the money but nobody expects the accountant to keep all the money in the safe every night. It’s in the bank, but the accountant should know how much is there,” he said.

“The information guy should know what information is there, where it is, and how to get at it – that’s all the accountant does …. IT guys have to have the imagination to make that their role.”

This opens the door for different skills, Baker suggested. “It’s definitely not an accounting function, but it’s not necessarily an IT function either. Interestingly, the information manager in the future may not be from a computer background, but he might be the guy who understands the value of information and how to shape it and present it.”

That being said, the future job spec doesn’t exclude people from a technology and computing background, Baker emphasised. “In a way, they’re starting off with some advantage in that, in the new cloud paradigm, at least they’ll be familiar with the entry and exit points and some of the operations behind the scenes.”

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic