The idea is beginning to evolve to create a Chief IoT Officer. The question is whether or not this is a good idea.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is the CTO of a very large organization. She was observing that as IoT evolves, there are some very interesting dynamics amongst the executives in her, and many other organizations. Her concerns were rooted in leadership and clarity, not technology.

As with many large organizations, avoiding politics and bureaucracy can be difficult, if not impossible. When the role of the CIO began to emerge, it was because technology had evolved to the point that every organization needed to have a better understanding as to the role of technology within its overall operation and strategy.

Since I have been in this business for some time, I can remember when the CIO role began to emerge to the point that it became mainstream. It was in large part effective because there was a recognized technology “expert” at the table amongst the sales, marketing, engineering, distribution, HR, legal, and financial executives that already had a voice in the collective executive dialog. While not perfect, most other executives were accepting of this.

As technology evolved, and its importance within each organization clearly grew, the need to separate the business voice of technology from the key decisions and directions of the actual rendering of that technology in the organization became clear, and the role of the Chief Technology Officer emerged – sometimes underneath, and sometimes beside the CIO. In most cases, these two would work together, but the clarity of the direction was often up for debate. The challenges here were not technological, they were leadership and execution. Some got it right, while others did not fare so well.

We have come a long way since then. Everyone is aware of the rapidly growing importance of the Internet of Things. But even a cursory understanding of IoT reveals that the reach is far and wide.

For example – you are the VP of manufacturing; or you are deep in IoT; maybe you are the VP of distribution – all the same thing.

Are you the head of a hospital, or VP of engineering for an auto manufacturer? Again, same thing. And if you are not making the decisions about the design of equipment you make or the distribution of goods you ship, your marketing or product management or sales executive positions require you to be promoting the required accommodations that make your product or service more attractive and competitive via IoT.

In other words, the people at the executive table who understand and care about IoT, should be everyone at the executive table. Period.

So who calls the shots? The CIO? Maybe. The CTO? Could be. But if you run manufacturing or product management or distribution, this is no longer a “customer of the CIO or CTO”, where they are supplying technology for you. The integration level is getting too deep.

The idea is beginning to evolve to create a Chief IoT Officer. The question is whether or not this is a good idea.

Let me go back to my friend’s concerns, which were about leadership, clarity of message, and accountability. Since IoT crosses many domains, should it be under a Chief IoT officer, and if so, is that person accountable?

If there is a Chief IoT Officer, does that person report to the President/CEO, COO, CIO, or CTO? In large organizations, structure can be important to the extent that it frames the leadership and accountability. As IoT becomes more and more important, clearly expertise needs to be in place to ensure success. How that happens will vary from organization to organization, but the idea of ownership and accountability always makes sense. The imperative is to adapt today’s C-Suite to accommodate the changing landscape.

It is easy to get lost in the challenges of what is right in front of us. Sometimes we all have to step back to take in the bigger picture.

Is IoT changing the world we live (and work) in? No question it is.

Do organizations need to adapt to this world? Of course, but no more than organizations needed to adapt to the industrial revolution or to the advent of the information age.

So the structure should be a function, first and foremost, of the overall goals and directions of the organization. I personally believe IoT knowledge and accountability is going to be a prerequisite for many organizations and adapting sooner rather than later will yield significant advantages. But with any large organization, there has to be clarity around direction, leadership, and the resulting accountability.

One thing is for sure, this contemplates a role and set of challenges that every organization should at least be discussing – right now.