Chief Information Officers used to be subjected to derisive comments about their relevance. Cynics expanded the CIO acronym to “Career Is Over.” With the mobile-cloud revolution known as Internet 3.0, the CIO role has become the critical position in guiding a company to digital success. This week we hear from five IT experts on the present and future of the CIO role.

There is a saying in the enterprise technology industry that no CIO ever got fired for buying from a handful of “safe” vendors. This wisdom may not hold up in today’s workplace, where CIOs are under pressure to deliver solutions that will increase agility, lower costs, and support new online business operations. Organizations in all industries, including the public sector, need to provide online tools to their users – both clients and internal employees. Doing so requires changes in IT infrastructure but also a fundamental shift in the philosophy of the IT department.

A closed IT environment is not an option for organizations that need to provide online portals and mobile applications for their users, whether those users are ordering a pizza or checking the bus schedule. Declaring war on legacy IT is the only way for CIOs to stay relevant today.

The perception of cloud as categorically insecure relative to on-premises software has not stood the test of time; 62.9 percent of IT professionals now believe the public cloud is more secure than or equally secure as their own datacenters. CIOs are recognizing that many of their initial security concerns were psychological rather than based on technology.

The greatest remaining obstacle to securely moving to the cloud is not technology, but people. The IT skills shortage is felt most acutely with emerging technologies, where education has not caught up to demand. Make sure to evaluate cloud literacy when hiring new staff who will need to lead cloud-based IT projects.

When done right, cloud can become a CIO’s best friend. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) may seem like the last organization to use the cloud. After on-premises infrastructure started to run up maintenance costs in the tens of millions of dollars, CIO Steve Randich put the organization’s mission critical applications and 90 percent of its data on AWS. The driver to move to the cloud was increasing data volumes that taxed the organization’s existing infrastructure. With the proliferation of data in virtually every industry, FINRA’s cloud migration story should inspire many CIOs to take their first steps towards a cloud-first infrastructure.

Security will always be inseparable from the cloud conversation, and rightfully so. Almost 85 percent of companies store some or all of their sensitive data in the public cloud. Moving to the cloud outsources many aspects of security, but the cloud customer always retains final responsibility for data. At a minimum, companies should have methods for evaluating and verifying the security capabilities of their cloud vendors. But even use of secure cloud services can pose risk to corporate data. Compromised accounts, malicious insiders, and accidental oversharing of data are just a few of the threats that companies must address with their own security measures.

While SaaS served as the first foray into the cloud for many organizations, IaaS and PaaS represent the next wave of cloud adoption. Companies face unique security challenges in moving existing applications from the datacenter to the cloud and creating new applications to be deployed in the cloud. Developers can create applications much faster than security teams can build individual security solutions, resulting in a new shadow IT problem where security teams are not aware of custom applications. In fact, a survey conducted with the Cloud Security Alliance shows security, on average, is only aware of 38 percent of custom applications in use. To ensure success in moving to the cloud, CIOs must align security with business teams to avoid failure to launch.

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