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Does Your Company Need A Chief Integration Officer?

As the C-suite adds another newly created role, companies should look at their existing staff before hiring

10Jan

Such is the nature of the C-suite in today’s business that new roles seem to be invented on a weekly basis. The proliferation, and increased importance of, technology in core practices has seen previously fringe elements of business thrust into the foreground. The CDO is a prime example; a previously overlooked area - that of digital transformation - made prominent by advancements in technology. Today, the CDO demands a space in the boardroom.

And the next in the long line of emerging job titles is the Chief Integration Officer. Some 95% of companies are using Cloud computing in their business processes. The relative nascence and complexity of the technology has, however, seen companies struggle to marry it with their existing processes. Does this mean a new C-suite position must be created to oversee the integration? Given the importance of the Cloud in modern business, perhaps it does, but it also threatens to further complicate an already poorly defined C-suite.

Headlines like ‘The CIO Is Dead, Long Live The CIO’ highlight just how complex the C-suite has become. The Chief Integration Officer has emerged as something of an evolution of the Chief Information Officer, a rethink of the role in which the CIO’s job is explicitly to integrate technology into the existing practices of a business. There is, inevitably, an issue of overlap between the two positions, though the Chief Integration Officer is a more specialized role.

As pointed out by TechRepublic, Chief Integration Officer can mean different things to different companies. Where the latest incarnation of the role is concerned with the move to cloud, CIOs have existed for some time with the remit of handling acquisitions. Without a CIO in place, an acquiring company can be all too often at sea over the details and intricacies of bringing in new processes. For this, the position is vital. For the Cloud, it’s less essential, as companies should already have the people in place to manage the change.

Really, the job of driving cloud integration in companies should be one for the Chief Information Officer, a role which in itself was seen by many as unnecessary upon its creation. It is worthy of consideration that the next five years will see $1 trillion in IT spending affected by the shift to cloud, and this shift should of course be overseen by competent and dedicated experts. Any company with a Chief Information Officer already has one, though, and further bloating a swollen C-suite isn’t the answer.

Some have expressed concern that adding the responsibility of Cloud integration to the Chief Information Officer’s role would limit their capability to fulfil the more innovative elements of the job. But there are ways around the added responsibility, and TechRepublic’s suggestion that the CIO ‘create a role within [its] IT team that oversees the operations infrastructure’ seems more sensible than adding to the C-suite.

One criticism of the role of CDO when it first began to gain traction was that it, by definition, existed to make itself redundant. Once digital transformation has been achieved and made sustainable, the CDO had put themselves out of a job. The same can be said of the CIO and, where the CDO was able to adapt and become a leading figure, the Chief Integration Officer’s only room for manoeuvre is to eat further into the role of the Chief Information Officer.

Whether the Chief Integration Officer is a necessary role or not, commentators all agree that companies need to become more data-literate in the coming years. Joe Carella, Assistant Dean at the University of Arizona, Eller College of Management, said: ‘Thirty years ago, it wasn't necessarily an expectation that our employees should have great financial acumen. Today, that's changed, and there is an expectation that people understand basic concepts of profits, loss, and managerial accounting. My sense is that we should expect the same when it comes to new technology and the way in which they integrate with one another and with the business.

‘Increasingly, everyone in the organization should know where their data sits, how it integrates with the rest of the organization, and, critically, how secure it is. The chief integration officer is probably an important figure in a transition. But longer term, we should expect ourselves and our colleagues to be proficient in the handling of data, no matter where that data resides.’ It’s important companies integrate Cloud computing into their practices swiftly and effectively. What this doesn’t necessitate is the creation of a new C-suite member. Instead, the role of the Chief Information Officer should be reassessed, resources reassigned and, perhaps, a role created within the CIO’s team to specifically handle integration.

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