By Wieland Alge, VP and GM, EMEA at Barracuda Networks

The CIO is the supreme ruler of his or her company’s IT empire today. Irrespective of company size, structure and IT infrastructure, the primary role of the CIO in a defined and rigid hierarchy is to manage the IT estate, frequently without any suggestion of cross-departmental cooperation.

But the emergence of cloud computing, data analysis, social business and mobility and the arrival of the third platform is threatening a seismic change that will shake the foundations of today’s IT management structure.

The role is it a-changin’

Cloud computing will enable individual departments to become increasingly self-sufficient and provide them with solutions to complete their tasks better and faster. If IT departments aren’t willing to help business units address their business processes, they face the prospect of being sidelined. As a consequence, there will be a strong onus on IT management to adopt a more cooperative style to suit the cloud computing model.

Growing adoption of cloud computing is likely to give rise to another phenomenon: IT managers that have not mastered any programming languages or written a line of code. It seems an almost heretical notion, but while they may not possess programming skills, they will more than make up for that deficiency with the business acumen that gives them the ability to evaluate the benefits software can bring to individual business processes.

CIOs need to become collaborators

Companies are attracted by public cloud because of its ability to improve competitive ability and reduce costs. More and more of them are serious about adopting it. According to a Barracuda survey of 900 IT managers across Europe, 45 percent of European IT managers in the survey are planning to use public cloud in the future.

The two most important areas for public cloud usage, according to the survey, are team-working technologies and distributed working processes. It’s no understatement to suggest both of those areas place a significant emphasis on the ability of CIOs to collaborate with specialist departments. Collaborative skills wills also be required as CIOs work with the business lines to ensure that mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) can be realised via the cloud.

The emergence of cloud services is undermining the IT department’s established role as the driver for IT projects and investments as business units make their own investments in cloud and become more and more successful in implementing them. As business unita start to see the advantages of the cloud more clearly, the pressure will mount on the IT department and the CIO to become more supportive of their efforts or get out of the way.

A question of no trust

The cloud will make IT more collaborative through the establishment of cross-departmental team-working, consultation and management, But as this process takes hold, the CIO will be forced to adopt mistrust as his or her guiding principle. The CIO will trust no-one and nothing, building a zero trust environment on the underlying infrastructure level that protects the organisation's ability to act.

He or she will have to protect critical infrastructures against other IT components and users with additional, intelligent security gates. Each query will need to be checked and each suspicious act prevented and investigated.

CIOs need to blend in

Fast and flexible cloud applications are helping business units to bypass centralised IT departments and meet their demand for IT resources quickly and easily. But this also raises the prospect of unauthorised, potentially insecure developments within the company. It will be up to the CIO to address those concerns by constructing individual corporate networks that securely deliver the performance the business needs.

As CIOs spend more and more time working with specialist departments in the organisation and becoming involved in projects from their initiation, it is quite possible the IT department could blend in with other departments and disappear altogether. The irony is that in a world where the IT department may no longer exist, the CIO’s role is likely to become much more closely aligned to the strategic provision of IT and services for individual business units as well as the organisation.