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BIG THINKER
“We are entering a period of at least 20 crazy years of innovation as everything is redesigned and reinvented.”
Vito Di Bari, innovation designer and futurist
Why CIOs will be the leaders of the new industrial age
Image: Federico Ciamei
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Why CIOs will be the leaders of the new industrial age

Kenny MacIver — August 2014

No one is better placed to guide corporate success in the future than the head of technology, argues innovation designer and futurist Vito Di Bari.

As all companies become increasingly digitally driven, CIOs are going to take up more powerful roles within executive management teams, even becoming the obvious choice for the CEO’s chair.

That’s the prediction of innovation designer and futurist Vito Di Bari, who is observing an evolution that will have a highly positive impact on the careers of the majority of CIOs and CTOs. After years of managing shrinking budgets and fire-fighting business problems, those IT leaders are about to become business leaders. Indeed, Di Bari forecasts that by 2020, as many as 80% of companies will be led by executives with a deep knowledge of technology – and in many cases that's likely to be today’s CIO or CTO.
The evolution of leadership

He puts that evolution in a wider historical context, by highlighting the kinds of managers who’ve been deemed most suitable to lead companies at different stages over the years. “During the Industrial Revolution, the background needed to lead a company was typically that of an engineer. The big problem companies faced was enabling serial production — the ability to efficiently manufacture products in sufficient quantities. Engineers were the ones who could make companies perform and achieve that.”

“By the middle of the last century, we finally had enough products to meet or even exceed demand, so engineers started to disappear from the top management ranks, with marketing people taking their place. The reason: the problem now was for a company to persuade people to buy its particular products.”

More recently, he says, as the result of the economic crisis that has impacted the prospects of most companies over the past seven years, there has been another change, with the CFO seen as the best person to lead the business.

However, he argues, this will change again because of two momentous and related technological changes: the advent of the Internet of Things and what he called “the big bang of data.”

“The entire world will change in such a way that people with a technological background — notably today’s CIOs and CTOs — will be the ones who will be asked to lead the companies of the future towards success.”

“We are entering a period of at least 20 crazy years of innovation as everything is reinvented — a frenzy of new industries and new products.”

Their primary focus will no longer be running ‘keep the lights on IT’ but innovation — at all levels within the organization.

“What companies today call research and development is pretty marginal. A typical spend of, say, 5% on R&D is simply not sustainable. The world is going to change, and if companies don’t spend a much larger proportion of revenues on R&D – [in some cases] making R&D the focus of up to two thirds of their activities — they will find themselves put out of business.”

He warns executives to fasten their seatbelts. “We are entering a period of at least 20, 25 crazy years of innovation because almost everything that has been created to date is going to have to be redesigned, reinvented. So two decades of total madness, in the same way that the years around the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century saw a frenzy of new industries, new products and rapid growth. And if that is going to happen again, who is best placed to lead the charge? Only those with a strong technological background: the CIO or the CTO.”

“They many not be called CIO or CTO – they might be known as chief innovation officers by then — but due to the knowledge they have and the many, many people who will be working in technology-driven research and development, I think that the new title of many CIOs will simply be chief executive officer.”

Vito Di Bari was a keynote speaker on the Fujitsu World Tour 2014

First published
August 2014
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About: Vito Di Bari
A professor, think-tank director and consultant, Vito Di Bari has been exploring the symbiosis between design and innovation for over two decades. He is the author of 11 books, including the Neofuturist City Manifesto, which was instrumental in Milan’s bid for Expo 2015.

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