Brazil is leading the world in putting the “I” back in “CIO”

Recently a headline at ZDNet, Shadow IT in Brazil surpasses world average , caught my eye. The short piece reported on a study carried out by Vanson Bourne on behalf of British Telecom that showed that technology spending outside the auspices of IT at Brazilian companies accounted for 32% of all enterprise technology purchases, notably higher than the global average of 25%.

That piece of the story was somewhat interesting as were some of the other statistics found in the study.

  • 88% of IT shops in Brazil acknowledged that shadow IT had led to IT losing power around technology procurement and spending.
  • This resulted in a 26% increase in security budgets (compared to a world average of 20%).

What really struck me, however, wasn’t the idea that Brazil has a higher prevalence of shadow IT than the rest of the world. It was how Brazilian CIOs and IT leaders responded to shadow IT compared to their global counterparts. More than nine in ten have embraced shadow IT and the related changes in their roles relative to the rest of their organization.

However, Brazilian chief information officers (CIOs) remain unabated by these changes: 92 percent of the Brazilian IT leaders polled welcome the possibility of becoming IT advisors rather than being exclusive IT managers and being able to think more creatively, compared to the global average of 64 percent.

This touches on two very powerful themes.

The first is that shadow IT can be a positive force if it is approached in the right manner – as a learning tool for CIOs and a point of collaboration by IT as a whole – something I’ve recently discussed in depth as a concept for building a Mobile First IT organization  and in relation to MobileIron’s new Content Security Service.

The second is that the transitions in technologies that are happening in organizations around the globe can actually empower a CIO. There’s a lot of talk that mobile, cloud, and shadow IT diminish the role of the CIO – and that can indeed happen. These factors, however, can also do the exact opposite, which is what appears to be happening in spades in Brazilian companies.

The genesis of the CIO role was the need for a C-level executive that could effectively harness the flow of information throughout an organization and, in so doing, drive productivity, business understanding of data, and create solutions for acting on that data. As IT systems and infrastructure have become more complex, however, the role of the CIO often became more about managing enterprise technology and IT staffing than working with fellow executive in terms of establishing and executing a strategic vision for the entire company and its individual business units – essentially losing focus of the “I” in CIO.

What Brazilian CIOs seem to be embracing is that, as systems move the cloud and procurement moves to lines of business, they’re freed from some of the minutia of IT management and that allows them to get back to the original function of the CIO – to work with executives and line of business managers as a trusted advisor or expert source on how to make use of available information as well as in creating and helping to execute an organization-wide vision as most effectively and efficiently as possible - in essence putting the “I” back in CIO.

This change in focus is hardly limited to Brazil. As the study noted, roughly two-thirds of CIOs around the world are embracing this change in their role.

As I’ve said before, there are radical transformations facing CIOs and IT and today can be thought of as the both the best and worst times to be a CIO. The difference comes from mindset and whether or not you’re willing to embrace change – and get back to the original CIO focus in the process.

Ryan Faas