David Ticoll is sympathetic to CIOs who are only now getting a handle on how to make the Internet work for their companies. But they're about to encounter another phenomenon - one he calls the Hypernet - that could cost them their jobs if they're unprepared for its arrival.
The co-author of Digital Capital and CEO of research consultancy Digital4Sight in Canada, Ticoll enjoys the chaos of huge technological upheavals. For one thing, it's good for business. For another, he sees these shifts as opportunities for technology leaders to assert themselves on the business side of their enterprises.
Still, Ticoll isn't one of those wishful thinkers who believes every CIO is destined to become the next CEO. Top IT executives, he says, are best suited to rise in information-driven organisations such as financial services companies. CIOs in, say, the chemical industry are less likely to understand the business side as thoroughly as the engineering or marketing types.
But even in information-focused companies, CIOs need to be ready for what Ticoll predicts will be top-down demand for the Hypernet, which will be built on peer-to-peer, mobile, broadband and utterly pervasive applications. Senior executives are going to put heavy pressure on IT to deliver a broad swath of services with lightning speed.
Until very recently, IT managers could claim some exclusivity in understanding technology deployment's potential. After all, they used the systems that delivered information. Today, everyone uses them. Old-line executives, now retiring in droves, depended on others to handle the tools that delivered decision-making information.
The new breed of CEOs has grown up with PCs, pagers, Internet-ready mobile phones and much more. Once they begin to see competitive advantage in rolling out Hypernet services, they will demand them.
In Ticoll's view, these CEOs will make demands before the CIO is ready to even discuss them, let alone offer up a plan. That sounds like a loud wake-up call for every top technologist, doesn't it?
The key to understanding the Hypernet is recognising that IT will be embedded directly in products, not just tagging along with the ancillary operations such as the supply chain and distribution logistics.
Building - or at least paving the way for - this IT environment will go a long way toward keeping your company on the cutting edge. It could also go the distance to keep you out of the unemployment line.