I’ve been in the enterprise tech industry for a long time — long enough to see the CIO pendulum swing from “superstar” to “endangered species.” Looking forward to 2020, how will you evolve? As a CIO, will you be a power player or obsolete?

Revisiting the “superstar” era

CIO_0922Let’s take a look back at the golden age of the CIO, the 1990s. Modern computing infrastructure was being built out — remember client/server architectures? workstations? The rise of the web? CIOs were given huge budgets, and used them to transform their businesses during an exciting era of growth and change.

Dawn Lepore was one of the era’s highest-profile CIOs, and a poster child for successful IT executives everywhere. Gaining fame at Charles Schwab, Lepore famously launched schwab.com in a matter of weeks. She later became vice chairman of Schwab and in 2004 moved on to become president, CEO and chairman of drugstore.com, staying there until 2012.

Lepore has since served as interim CEO of alternative lending darling Prosper. She also has spent years on the boards of eBay, WalMart, TJX, Real Networks, and other companies.

So how did Dawn Lepore do it? How did she springboard from CIO to all-around legendary executive? The answer is brutally simple: she used IT to transform the business.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

It’s true that today’s IT environment is completely different than in the ’90s, when CIOs held a tight grip on budgets. Central IT budgets have shrunk; at the end of the quarter, your lobby is no longer filled with frothing sales people, you’re lonelier than the Maytag repair man.

But the answer to CIOs’ evolution, and career longevity, remains the same: use IT to transform the business, in ways that only a CIO can. Today, this means data — big data to be exact. Harnessing the power of big data has been near the top of every organization’s business imperatives for what seems like a decade, yet much valuable information remains trapped in data silos.

Unlocking the value of enterprise data

Business transformation is now more subtle than at the birth of the mainstream web. Discovering your company’s data-driven path to transformation requires two things:

  • Giving business users the agility they demand by providing self-service data analytics and discovery
  • At the same time, providing IT leaders the governance mechanisms to deliver a complete, consistent and trustworthy view of the business.

If you can do both of these things, you’ll have 2020’s answer to the eternal question, “Are CIOs obsolete?” And it will be a resounding, “Hell no.”

To learn how Birst helps CIOs to use IT to transform the business, click here.

The preceding is a blog post originally published in CIO on September 22, 2015.