Billy's right: "The CIO is the last to know"

The CIO is rarely on the leading edge of technology. She's the one who writes the checks when it's already proved itself.

I wish I saw Billy Marshall, CEO of rPath, more often. His post today on new technology pervading an enterprise long before the CIO knows about it is spot on. It's how we get goofy survey data that suggest that open source is far away on the distant horizon...despite it being widespread and heavily adopted already.

It just doesn't show up on the CIO's multi-million dollar check stub. Not yet.

The CIO is always the last to know about new technology. The head of engineering brought UNIX into the enterprise for CAD/CAM and analysis applications, and the CIO was the last to know. Department managers brought in PCs and Windows for personal productivity and desktop publishing, and the CIO was the last to know. System administrators brought in Linux for network services, and the CIO was the last to know. The sales force brought in and introduced the enterprise to SaaS, and the CIO was the last to know. Developers in the business units will use cloud computing, and the CIO will be the last to know.

It's not that the CIO is clueless. It's just that she's not directly responsible for rolling out new technology. That happens at the rank-and-file level as needs arise and budgets get squeezed. The CIO buys from IBM; the architect and department IT lead buys from everyone else.

The CIO will probably say "No" to the latest open-source software investment, but that's because she doesn't realize it's already spreading like wildfire throughout her enterprise. By the time she does, she'll be there to negotiate the enterprise license/subscription agreement. Her timing, in other words, will be impeccable.

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