Remember the 1990s? If you were a CIO back then, you may recall being the master of your domain—a tech titan who worked your magic behind the curtains. You were entrusted with building out client/server architectures and workstations and given a large budget for doing it. Executives didn’t want to know the hard details of why something did or didn’t work. They just wanted it to work.
Ahh, those were the good old days, weren’t they? It was the golden age of the CIO where modern computing infrastructure was being built out and you were at the forefront of business transformation.
The role of the CIO has changed
My how the tables have turned. But have they really? Yes, it’s true that you no longer have a tight grip on budgets which by the way have shrunk dramatically. To make matters worse, IT is increasingly being looked upon as the vanguard for profit generation.
So what happened? You can blame it on the Digital Age and its disruptive technologies. But regardless of this enhanced focus on business strategy, your role remains the same: use IT to transform the business. And if you’re not doing it, someone else will. For instance, the CMO who may have to bypass you because you’re not agile enough to provide technology solutions.
The rise of tech-savvy millennials.
New threat to the role of CIO?
What else is impacting the role of today’s CIO? Up-and-coming tech-savvy youngsters with their noses buried in smartphones and tablets. Immersed in technology almost by default, this group of upstarts are the true heirs to the 1980s tech explosion who can’t recall life before the Internet or having a cell phone.
For them, constant change is a given. Any information they need to get a project completed can be called up with a few taps of their smartphone. They are the new trendsetters who want information made available fast and accurately. They seek to solve problems themselves and if they’re not satisfied with the technology you’re offering them, they’ll find something else to use.
Staying relevant in a changing landscape
The big lesson here is that you can no longer afford to stay static and consider yourself just an IT service provider who keeps the lights on. You must know the technology landscape and the business implications of technology to stay relevant. The services you offer must be easy to use so workers won’t be tempted to purchase alternative technologies under the IT department’s radar, which of course leaves the door open to security breaches and data leaks.
Surviving rumors of your untimely demise
In 2015, SAP Europe president Franck Cohen, told CIO magazine that CIOs “may become obsolete” in the not too distant future. Why? Because some of their duties are being taken over by chief digital officers (CDOs) who are taking charge of digital transformation programs from start to finish.
“Either the CIO becomes the one who develops the strategy for their companies, extending their role to being chief of the information systems, or they will become obsolete,” continued Cohen.
Will the role of the CIO be relabeled?
There’s been a lot of talk about the label of CIO changing to better fit changing business initiatives. Whether the title changes to Chief Transformation Officer because it’s more aligned to transforming and delivering strategic objectives, rather than just technical competency. Or Chief Analytic Officer or Chief Data officer because of the huge influence of data on business decisions, your role is the nexus to improving business processes and overall performance.
Name change or not, CIOs must reimagine their role to stay applicable. A 2014 McKinsey report discusses why you should start seeing yourself and encouraging others to see you as chief executive of information business. In other words, you should be the one setting strategy and not waiting for someone else to hand it off to you.
Busting the myth that CMOs want your job
According to Gartner, CMOs will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017. Even though CMOs have been spending on IT, they don’t want the role. In fact, CMOs would rather not get involved in technology at all. Why? Even though they want the freedom and flexibility that a technology solution brings, CMOs also understand that IT demands planning and compliance with standards. In actuality, what they really want is more collaboration from you so they can do their jobs better.
In a CIO article which referenced a study by Guardian Media Network, three CMOs were asked for their views on how big data is changing traditional marketing roles. When asked about the relationship between marketing and IT they used words like “collaboration”, “dialogue” and “relationship”. In other words, CMOs want to align marketing with IT solutions not take over the role of facilitating IT services. But to get there, they do need the CIO to help them.
Uncovering the value of data
Getting back to data—big data to be exact. CIOs are on the frontline in understanding and harnessing the power of big data. This has been near the top of every organization’s business imperatives for what seems like a decade. Yet much valuable information still remains trapped in data silos.
Once considered the big unknown for most of the business, IT and big data is now firmly on the management board agenda. What moved it up the chain were the challenges and opportunities presented by digital disruption. But figuring out a strategy and data-driven path forward for true transformation, The 2014 McKinsey Report suggests that CIOs should master these 4 critical roles to help companies raise their game for competitive advantage:
- Be a venture capitalist, showcasing the “art of the possible” to internal customers by highlighting the most promising ideas to apply big data and advanced analytics.
- Be a product manager, assembling easy-to-use big data and advanced analytics “products” designed to match patterns of use by internal customers.
- Be a recruiter, motivating and retaining the best talent.
- Be a business leader, building the discipline to enable transformational change and impact at scale.
These roles are great in helping uncovering the value of data. But you must also make smart technology investments or any strategy you try to implement could be dead on arrival. To stay ahead, you need to transform your business into the digital workspace.
Transitioning the business to the digital workspace
Gartner suggests three steps that can best prepare CIOs and the rest of the business for the digital economy:
- Extend IT planning horizons: 84% of CIO planning is still based on a two-year horizon. Instead consider a long term strategy for business success. Impact 2020 is what Gartner calls a planning process that capitalizes more on emerging technology, as well as human capital and consumer trends. To help with this transition, you should:
- Identify your desired business outcomes for 2020
- Determine the skills, attitudes and expectations of your organization and employees.
- Then pinpoint the technologies and services needed to achieve the outcomes.
- Collaborate with IT, HR, business and facilities representations to realize your goals
- Invest in post-nexus technologies: The Nexus of Forces (mobile, social, cloud and information) is already here. (You should already be invested in this.) If you aren’t looking at these disruptive technologies to help transition to the digital workspace, you’re already way behind. In fact, some CIOs are looking at post-Nexus technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, augmented human, 3D printing and robotics. And CEOs are even further down this path. They are already assuming that nexus technologies and the digital business are happening today.
- Focus metrics on employee engagement: IT cost and service levels are the two metrics mostly used to judge CIO performance. Both are leftovers from the IT industrialization era. So you have to start promoting new metrics on how what you’re doing brings value, improved performance and innovation to your customers. Work with HR to create a more conducive work environment that enables higher levels of collaboration, recognition, wellness and transparency.
Surviving slings and arrows, and becoming the master of relationships
To recap on the demise of the CIO, it would seem these rumors have been greatly exaggerated. CIOs are well equipped to lead their organizations into the new century. If you think of any change to the business today, you must include technology and digital in that equation. This naturally puts you at the center of business evolution. If you don’t take advantage of your unique position in the business, others will simply work around you.
To survive, you must see yourself as more than the traditional role. You must see yourself as someone who manages relationships. Align your relationship to the C-suite and how you bring thought leadership and strategy to the table with business goals. Build relationships with customers and their relationship with the technology to help grow the business and spark innovation.
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