Reimagining the IT World

James Rinaldi, CIO, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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James Rinaldi, CIO, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Role of CIOs Today

The role of the CIO has evolved, thanks in part to the impact IT has had in our daily lives. I see the CIO being a strategist, enabler, and leader of change more than ever. The CIO now not only has a seat at the table but demonstrates how IT can change how work gets done and even create new business opportunities for the company. Today’s CIO is a translator, such that they must communicate the outcomes possible with IT versus the technology itself.

  ​It is really important to show how solutions can work at your company by what others are doing  

To be the leader, strategist, and trusted enabler, the CIO must be an effective communicator. Fellow executives want to hear about results and how the results affect the company.

It is very exciting to be a CIO today.

Laying the Cards on the Table: When IT Meets the Rest of the World

It’s all about building a relationship with other C-level executives, based on mutual benefit versus just necessity. Communicating the business outcomes does help business counterparts see value. Good metrics that show improvement help as well, but should be communicated along with the outcomes. Being a trusted executive that can be counted on to exercise good judgment, while having the flexibility to adjust as events dictate, is what others want to see in a CIO.

I also advise CIOs to educate their counterparts with seminars, demonstrations, and benchmarking where possible. It turns out that not everyone understands IT the way we do and it can be overwhelming to them. It is really important to show how solutions can work at your company by what others are doing.

Interesting Times: The (R)evolution of Technology

I am excited by many technology innovations, especially autonomous vehicles, machine learning, and how cloud computing keeps evolving. When you think about being able to get from point A to point B and the transportation is autonomous, it opens up many other possibilities. Drones are being built to deliver goods pushing road traffic out of the equation. Very exciting to imagine the future.

The unlimited capacity of the cloud and all of the evolving capabilities are very exciting and can help solve problems that we were unable to solve before. This allows new innovations and insights that would take too long to be effective otherwise. Businesses are being born in cloud computing and the speed to market becomes faster.

Add to that, the power of virtual reality (VR). Rapidly evolving with newer levels of sophistication, VR based applications are becoming very obtainable. For example, you can experience things that you may not be able to physically or financially. Riding a wave, skiing a mountain, vacationing in places you cannot access are some examples. For business, it could be exploring new cars and driving them first before you physically get the experience. Then one day, with the aid of 3D printing, get your customized vehicle delivered.

New ways of interacting with computing are very exciting. Amazon Echo, Apple’s SIRI, and many others are opening up newer applications. It is becoming more fashionable to write code that uses these interfaces more and more. So the “internet of things” is really happening which creates more sensors and more data.

Technology Takes Center-stage in the Future

I have seen IT become an integral part of producing the product. We have become internal consultants to our business components, so that we can focus on delivering capabilities and solutions and not peddling technology for technology’s sake. I am pleased with the new workforce entering the market, their skills are fantastic and seemingly no fear in trying things. Add those skills with experience and you can transform into a world class IT organization.

In times of such technology turbulence, it is imperative for wannabe CIOs to not fall prey to being too critical of IT in public, by bad mouthing or such. If others see it, they will join in. Also, too many IT shops want to focus on efficiencies before they deliver effective IT. That is a common problem and it always leads to a bad customer experience. I find too many in IT think IT is too expensive, if true then fix it, but often it is not enough funding and IT should show the value of more funding. One thing I tell business functions is I can cut my budget and save some money or you can add to my budget and I’ll save you more money.

Finally, it is the best time to be in IT and tomorrow will only be better. Enjoy it, support your workforce, and deliver to your customers.