The two faces of IT in the new digital world

The two faces of IT in the new digital world

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December 14, 2015
CIO Digital Training

When was the last time you sat down with one of your company's customers? If it's been a while - or never - it's time to set up some get-togethers. Today's successful CIOs need to be familiar with the company's most important customers, says Warren Perlman, CIO of the Human Capital Management software company Ceridian. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, he explains why this is so important in today's world.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): How have IT organizations been evolving in recent years? Are CIOs becoming more customer-facing?

Perlman: CIOs are becoming more customer-facing. In my role as CIO, I strive to fulfill our company's promise: "Makes Work Life Better." I have to be engaged with the client and advocate for their needs at Ceridian at all levels including the C-Suite.

Let's be honest: If the CIO is struggling, then the organization is struggling. Customer acquisition is becoming more challenging, but customer retention is also a top priority. Customers are increasingly savvy and as such, demand a relationship with a CIO who can speak the speak and walk the walk. To attract and retain customers, CIOs need to build a culture of innovation at the same time as keeping the lights on. The CIO needs to be well-versed on the technologies the company is selling and be the go-to person when the client requires that technical or security conversation.

TEP: Are CIOs taking on more of a role in strategic decision-making overall within their organizations?

Perlman: Today's CIO should be looking for the strategies, solutions and technologies that can remedy new and old challenges. Challenges such as the cloud — whether dedicated, shared, internal, external or hybrid. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the ever-evolving security landscape which requires constant attention to protecting sensitive data, both client and corporate.

IT has two faces in the new digital world, combining disruption through innovation with business as usual. Wildly different skill sets are forced to co-exist and cohabitate, but what comes out of it can be truly extraordinary. Partner a tenured Gen-Y with a Millennial and you might be surprised by what you get. Good or bad, you're disrupting the norm and producing results.

TEP: How do you see the CIO role continuing to evolve in future years?

Perlman: Possibly the biggest challenge for the CIO is employee productivity and general well-being. Gone are the days where you had that single contributor who did it all. The long tedious hours and weekend shifts for maintenance are also behind us.

Multi-sourcing is the new outsourcing for the evolving CIO. Manage your costs and the people via specialized outsourcing opportunities, pick vendors who do one or two things really well and avoid the all eggs in one basket scenario. Finally, your CEO doesn't care about what IT does; he or she just wants to know that all employees have the tools, equipment and access they need to produce products and to be first to market. Enabling your staff and improving their work lives produces measurable efficiencies. Happy employees equate to happy clients.

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Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington. Find her at  


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