Book Talk

9 recent books that every CIO should read…

In the good old days, when the enterprise IT was full of techies, there was a fair amount of book talk; albeit books often meant thick guides on new technologies, protocols and standards—often written specifically to help clear various industry certifications.

Times have changed and most CIOs and IT managers want to be seen as business managers than techies. Yet, it is their tech expertise that gives them the authority to work with other senior executives to chart out how the company should plan its growth or expansion.

That requires knowledge that can only come from the gurus, thought leaders and those who have been there, done that. Contrary to what many may say, relying only on your own experience is not enough. The top tech managers of today should keep up with trends in business, technology and how they impact each other and in turn the society.

Books can certainly open up the minds and help them grow professionally and intellectually. Here are nine books that do the job. Some of them take a 10,000 feet view on trends while some are specific to one emerging technology. Yet, all of them are extremely timely.

I have not read all of them. My list is based on, apart from my own reading, familiarity with the author’s other works, my interaction with the authors as well as the recommendations of whose opinions I value. On some, especially the last five, which I have not read, I will like to get your opinion too.  

Here is the list, not presented in any particular order. You can click on the book title to go its page in Amazon India site. All these books, except Kalus Schwab's The Fourth Industrial Revolution, have been published in 2016. Schwab's book will be released later this month.  

1. Utopia Is Creepy ... and Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr


Ever since Nicholas Carr wrote Does IT Matter?  I have followed his writing, his blog Rough Type and his books and occasional writings and interviews in media. They are often alternate versions of the truth as most of us see it and raise interesting, often frightening, questions. If Does IT Matter questioned the perceived value added by enterprise IT, Utopia... asks broader questions about our life as it changes because of the the digital age. For example, how different is the Twitter trolling match from the presidential/prime ministerial candidates and their followers from the local akharas where the loudest and chest thumping used to win the crowd's support. The only difference, these people today get elected and become MPs, prime ministers and presidents. In short, it is an alternate history of the digital revolution. As those leading the change, the enterprise IT leaders should at least be sensitized to the questions. A must read.


2. Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT by Martha Heller

There is not too much in the book that you have not heard or read. But there's a difference between listening to a conversation and getting it from someone who is arguably the most definite voice in America about the way CIO positions are evolving. And that is what this book is. It talks about the skills and qualities that the CIOs should most definitely possess in the new era. And that knowledge comes from the insights of her everyday job of hiring some of the top talents in enterprise IT in America, through her executive search firm, Heller Search Associates. This is the only book in the list that is directly about you; your everyday professional needs and your skills and proficiencies.   


3. Big Data in Practice : How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results by Bernard  Marr

The name of the book leaves little scope for me to tell you what it contains. If Carr's book is for the jnanayogis, Marr's is an out-and-out karmayogi's guide. But what is unique about the book is that it is extremely readable. Marr, who happens to be my favorite contributor in, shows how big data can actually create business value for business organizations. This book should be a must read not just for CIOs but also for other CXOs in businesses who are looking forward to pursue a data-driven strategy. To that extent, it is a great book to gift your other CXO friends. 


4Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy--and How to Make Them Work for You by Sangeet Paul Choudary, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker 

Platforms, such as Uber and Airbnb have vigorously disrupted business models establsihed and proven over centuries. So much so that today, older companies, with a linear value chain, are looking at emulating them. Sangeet Paul Choudary, who is often referred to as a platform guru because of his expertise in this area--turning pipe companies (as he calls the older set of companies) into platform companies. His earlier book, Platform Scale, looked at this from a practioner's perspective. This book further takes the idea to study the phenomenon and derive important learnings. For his interview that I did a few months back for CIO&Leader, click here


5. The Digital Transformation Playbook - Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age by David L. Rogers

The author rejects that only new companies can do 'innovation'. Starting with the example of Encyclopedia Britanica, he shows how existing leaders can be digitally transformed if they neutralize the blind spots. Customer, competition, data, innovation and value are the five pillars of digital tramsformation, the book argues and takes each of these in dedicated chapters which address topics like Big Data and Platforms, incidentally the subject of some of the books in this list.


6. The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab 

This book is still not out. Slated to be released on 8th February, the book is written by the man who coined the term. The World Economic Forum founder is the leading thought leader and one of the most influential persons in the world today. Next on my reading list. 


7.  Blockchain Revolution by Don Tapscott, Alex Tapscott 

Blockchain promises to be the biggest disruptor since the Internet. And this is supposed to be the best book on the subject, going by the recommendation of experts. I have not read the book and probably will never read it but those of you looking at learning abdout the technology, this is certainly a book to consider. 


8. Technology vs Humanity: The Coming Clash Between Man and Machine by Gerd Leonhard 

Another interesting area, another interesting book. A top recommendation from many. 


9. The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

The author dons the futurologits' hat to help us understand how the technology forces of today will impact our lives tomorrow. A good reference book, this can also be your guide to talk knowledgeably and intelligently about new trends. A zeitgeist book. 


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