Future Slant: Business Value

min read

By Diana G. Oblinger and Joanne Dehoney

This is the fourth in a blog series describing five “metatrends,” drawn from a review of articles in industry IT press, that affect CIOs in all IT sectors:

·      Challenges of scale

·      Analytics

·      Technology and work

·      Business value

·      Competition and control

Each post in the Future Slant blog will describe one of these trends, suggesting implications for higher education.


Excellence in strategically planning and implementing enterprise IT services is no longer the standard for success in the CIO role. In industry, pressure is on the IT organization to create business value and contribute to the bottom line, not just to provide commodity services. The ability to contribute to business decisions is therefore becoming a key competency for industry CIOs.

As Steve Ranger writes in “The Strange Life, Death, and Rebirth of the CIO and What It Means for the Future of IT”: “CIOs are facing a new reality in which success is measured not by the number of staff and projects on the books, but by how few. They are also expected to find new ways to make money from technology, rather than spending money on running it. . . . Over the next three to five years, Forrester [Research] predicts that a majority of CIOs will be coming from non-IT background[s] to manage and run technology for their organisations.”

Ranger quotes Khalid Kark, research director at Forrester: “The CIO moves from a technology leader to a business leader: the CIO role as we know it today will cease to exist — and if it does exist it will be a commoditized role. It becomes the orchestrator of technology, not the provider.”

These approaches have IT dependencies and implications. In “Eight Special Qualities CIOs Will Need in the Future,” Executive’s Guide to the Future of IT Leadership, Joe McKendrick writes: “Future CIOs will be entrepreneurs in their own right.” He quotes Joel Dobbs, CEO and president of Compass Talent Management Group, who notes that CIOs are part of the “creation of a game-changing technology that reshaped or substantially altered their company’s business and, in almost every case, the technology focused on directly impacting the organization’s end customers.” McKendrick adds: “More than being tech leaders, CIOs have to conceive and sell ideas, identify and secure resources, and be leaders.”

Corollaries exist in higher education. The sector is increasingly focused on improving student outcomes and containing costs. Institutions are innovating with approaches based on personalized learning, adaptive learning, MOOCs, competency-based education, and other models that diverge from traditional notions of seat time and credit hours. Higher education is also adapting business models, such as public-private partnerships to create online degree programs or inter-institutional collaborations/coalitions to deliver services.

Market forces and economics are encouraging us to reinvent higher education faster than ever. Technology can enable automation, scale, and new business models. The synergy of technology and new models is apparent in the for-profit sector. Private capital is flowing into new educational ventures; alternative service providers increasingly handle core institutional functions (e.g., enrollment, tutoring, marketing) thanks to technology. Online learning, once a new model, has attracted millions of learners and very large-scale for-profit providers.

The ability to innovate business models is increasingly a required expertise for CIOs. The CIO can become the go-to person to help create new ventures and new models. Entrepreneurs are needed inside higher education as much as outside.

© 2014 Diana G. Oblinger and Joanne Dehoney. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0).