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CIO responsibilities rest with cloud services

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Ongoing transformations in the IT industry will continue to catapult the chief information officer's (CIO) role forward in the coming years. This is especially true as companies adopt cloud services for more than just storage capabilities, as decision-makers begin to recognize the potential benefits associated with using hosted PBX solutions and cloud-based disaster recovery programs.

A recent study of 100 CIOs by network solutions provider Brocade revealed that many executives believe ongoing cloud adoption trends in the enterprise will require them to spend less time worrying about minute infrastructure problems. On the other hand, the CIO's responsibilities will be more widely incorporated into overall IT strategies, as these decision-makers will concern themselves with changes in business phone systems, cloud applications and other crucial services.

Respondents said they see the merging of the CIO and chief operations officer (COO) positions in the coming years, especially as the role of the CIO expands and becomes more important to ensuring the long-term success of a company. CIOs will also be more responsible for what happens in the network, especially as cloud and mobile services are used more frequently in the office.

"To access applications, information and communications systems, the network is not just another 'device' in the same way as a tablet, laptop or smartphone - it is the enabler of all business communications, activities and transactions," said Alberto Soto, Brocade executive. "If that network is not managed and developed appropriately, the consequences can be significant and financially damaging."

CIOs take a firmer stance on cloud

The survey revealed that more than a third of cloud services currently being used in the enterprise had been deployed without the direct involvement of IT departments, a practice which inherently introduces a number of potential risks. Although another two-thirds of respondents said they expect business units to procure more cloud-based services by 2020, the CIO will focus on policy enforcement and technical evangelism, especially as organizations adopt cloud VoIP and other innovative services.

A separate report by ABI Research noted that cloud communications in particular will continue to gain momentum in the coming years, largely because companies will demand the ability to integrate user experience and applications across multiple devices, regardless of platform or model. Additionally, businesses are interested in the cloud's ability to enhance collaboration and boost efficiency by being managed off-site. In fact, more than 40 percent of all enterprise communication users will be hosted by 2016.

"For [customer-premises equipment] vendors, the cloud threat is real," said Subha Rama, senior analyst at ABI Research. "By 2016, the communications CPE market will only grow 4.3 percent, while cloud communications will grow by over 21 percent, reaching $8 billion in revenues."

In the coming years, the proliferation of mobile devices and cloud computing will have a significant effect on the overall telecommunications landscape. This transformation will provide companies with unique opportunities to enhance operations and launch programs with substantial returns on investment, including the ability to support a growing remote workforce and a highly diverse endpoint strategy.

The CIO of tomorrow's business world will be more involved in these initiatives than ever before. By carefully planning out investments, decision-makers can implement advanced office phone systems that provide the flexibility and scalability needed in the highly competitive private sector. While the move to the cloud will not necessarily be mandatory in the coming years, a hosted communications strategy will likely give companies an advantage over firms still using traditional land line or voice-only solutions that are quickly becoming outdated due to the proliferation of more sophisticated offerings.