2012: the outlook for CIOs

The CIO's task became harder in 2011. In 2012, IT leaders will need to cement their position as trusted advisers to the business, rather than just the person who keeps the lights on.

2012 will bring three key technical developments in IT, according to analyst firm Gartner.

The importance of mobile devices in business will continue to increase, with "mobile devices continuing to outgrow PCs as preferred primary computing devices," it claims.

The greatest challenge for CIOs is not a technical one.

Companies will continue to expand the volumes of data they gather, and in many case this "big data" explosion will "overwhelm most companies' ability to understand that data."

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What's more, cloud computing models will force businesses to change both their internal IT structures and their relationships with outsourcers, even though the cloud still raises some concerns: "security assertions and certifications for cloud providers are still lacking in completeness and availability," says the analyst.

But perhaps the greatest challenge for CIOs is not a technical one. As Gartner points out the control of technology budgets is moving out of IT, and into the business. For all the technical reasons the analyst has outlined consumerisation and mobility, the use of the cloud, and big data increasingly the business itself, rather than IT, is in the driving seat.

Strategy, or tactics

In some companies, this is putting a question mark over the role of the CIO, and the IT department. If the business can buy technology directly from vendors as cloud computing, for example then the role of the CIO might be diminished.

It is not just a question of how the cloud affects IT. Over the last few years, the use of business process outsourcing has grown steadily. Companies are not just turning to cloud services for base-level IT resources such as processing or storage, or even for software such as CRM.

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