How CIOs can defeat shadow IT and win the C-suite "Game of Thrones"

By Taylor Holland

Not long ago, CIOs and CMOs rarely crossed paths. Marketing leaders were waging decades-old turf wars with sales leaders over customer communication, and CIOs were in charge of enterprise technology.

Today, CIOs and CMOs have new authority and respect, P&L responsibilities and revenue targets. Both leaders use cutting-edge technology to drive digital transformation, but who's in charge and who's in the supporting role? Or, to borrow from HBO's "Game of Thrones," who's king and who's the hand of the king?

That's up for debate in many organizations. The result is shadow IT, unproductive competition and missed opportunities for innovation. Integrating multi-cloud and on-premises IT can help CIOs stay on the throne. From there, they can equip marketing and customer experience teams with the latest and greatest technology while keeping corporate data secure and building strategic infrastructures that scale with future innovations.

Remember, the Iron Throne is made of swords

Overall, CIOs have maintained their claim to the digital throne, but they can't afford to get too comfortable.

CEOs consider CIOs second only to themselves as leaders of digital business change, according to Gartner. While other executives expect CIOs to lead, many are leaving their digital kingdoms up for grabs. Digital transformation is largely led by the CMO in 34 percent of companies, and the CIO in 19 percent, according to research from the Altimeter Group.

CMOs are certainly digital leaders. To keep pace with ever-evolving marketing trends and technology, they now play big roles in determining IT needs and infrastructure budgets. Marketing technology spending has almost caught up with CIO technology spending — 3.24 percent of overall revenue, versus 3.4 percent — and the gap is predicted to close by the end of 2017.

However, CMOs don't have CIOs' security and infrastructure expertise or the same big-picture view of their entire organization's digital needs.

Innovation and collaboration: Secrets to a successful digital reign

CIOs might have a rightful claim to the digital throne, but to stay competitive, they must go beyond being process-oriented to be innovative, strategic and forward-thinking. Reshaping IT for a multi-cloud world can help for the following reasons:

  • Shadows are dangerous: In "Game of Thrones," a shadow took down a king. In companies, shadow IT can take down the CIO. Effective digital marketing requires sophisticated technology, and if CIOs don't ensure marketing teams have what they need to innovate and engage customers across channels, CMOs will find their own third-party solutions. This can lead to unnecessary or redundant costs, investments that don't align with the long-term digital enterprise strategy and potential security threats. A hybrid infrastructure integrated across multiple clouds and on-premises systems helps CIOs overcome the threat of shadow IT by giving them visibility into and control over the applications employees use. IT can also offer catalogs of secure cloud applications for employees to use across departments.
  • Winter is always coming: Given the rate of digital evolution, it's hard to guess what game-changer will pop up next year, much less a decade from now. By migrating to the cloud, CIOs don't have to worry about missing out on digital opportunities or being limited by future growth. New applications can be easily integrated into the technology stack, and cloud servers and services scale with the business.
  • CIOs need a dragon's-eye view: Up in the clouds, dragons stay above the fight and can see the bigger-picture battle. CIOs can't see quite so far, but they can stay up-to-date on the latest technology trends, anticipate digital shifts and build agile IT strategies that enable their teams and organizations to respond to change quickly — unless they're too busy putting out IT ground fires and waging digital turf wars. With the right cloud vendor, enterprises get a fully managed, highly secure, production-ready cloud infrastructure. That leaves CIOs with more time to collaborate with CMOs and other digital stakeholders and to become the digital leaders the rest of the C-suite already believes them to be.

Implementing a multi-cloud strategy gives CIOs the flexibility and ingenuity to transform their organizations, both today and when winter finally comes.