2014 was another challenging year for the CIO with plenty of column inches given over to debating the control and usage of technology across the enterprise with much speculation about the validity of the role itself.
Personally, I think talk of the demise of the CIO role is presumptuous though what is critical right now is that the CIO role needs to evolve with 2015 being the time to flourish and show their true worth in helping set the strategic direction of their organisation. The CIO role is like no other in that it allows visibility across the organisation that others rarely get to achieve and those that are commercially astute with a capacity to add tangible value to the business will excel - those who are not will likely be sitting in a different chair at the start of 2016.
As a result of the recent economic turmoil and rapidity of change across the commercial landscape, many organisations are now looking for a different type of CIO or technology leader than they have in the past. They are diluting the need for a more technically focused individual to one who is able to unravel the complexity of IT, increase the accessibility to technology, and be open to new ideas with the ability to work with peers on getting the right things done. One of the key factors in this evolutionary change in the CIO role is the need to understand and appreciate they no longer have ultimate say over what technologies are used within their organisation but they will still be held accountable for making sure it all works.
Gartner research has shown that 38% of IT spend is already outside of IT and that they expect this to reach 50% by 2017. This is going to send a shiver down the spine of many a CIO but they must understand the diversification of technology usage and need across their organisation. This is quite the culture shift for many who have migrated in to the CIO role from the traditional ‘lights on’ IT director role of old but this will make absolute sense for those who have the ability to evolve in to this new model which will free them up to get more involved in defining and executing the ‘big picture’ strategy. Too long the CIO has been identified as the strategic and commercial weak link in the c-suite and not adding tangible value across the business – they must seize this opportunity to transform their role and reputation in to one that thinks collectively, understanding how best to resolve the issues that matter across the business and ultimately delivering commercial value.
The main theme and focus for many of us this year is how to transformand drive a digital business. Naturally this is a hot topic for CIO’s and the challenge of how to implement and transform your business to a digital operating model is now top billing on the agendas of many boardrooms across the globe. This is exactly where the CIO can step up and work with peers and key stakeholders across the business to define a strategy which is moulded around a ‘customer first’ approach where digital technologies will form the cornerstones of how your services are delivered and consumed going forward. This will require much managing of change, process, and incumbent technology and possibly need a marked change in strategic direction – a role tailor-made for the commercially astute CIO in harness with the CMO.
The impact of digital business on industries and individual organisations cannot be underestimated and Gartner have predicted that by 2017 one in five industry leaders will have ceded their market dominance to a company founded after 2000. This is a bold claim but one which I support as no longer can you rely on historical dominance of your sector – either embrace disruption now or start planning your burial in the corporate graveyard alongside luminaries such as Kodak and Blockbusters.
CIO’s must embrace a “Bi-Modal IT” mind-set where they simultaneously embark on the digital transformation journey whilst maintaining Business as Usual (BAU) services.
It’s no secret that the most successful CIO’s are those who are able to run the business and transform it at the same time. Many industry observers and consultants will tell you that they have witnessed more transformation in the last 3 years than in the previous 20 years combined, so this shows how important these skills are in the modern CIO. I don’t see any lessening in this pace as the demand for new and simpler ways to consume data, information, products and solutions is only going to increase year on year as the technology and accessibility to it improves.
CIO’s will also need to start concentrating on what talent they need to bring in to their organisations this year to manage this “Bi-Modal IT” approach as the market for the best talent is already stretched and growing ever more taut. CIO’s should help their business colleagues and the CEO think outside the box to imagine new scenarios for digital business that cross companies and industries, providing a great opportunity for CIO’s to amplify their role in the organisation.
Gone are the days where you can supply rigid corporate systems, which are only accessible on site – the corporate world has evolved and everyone wants to consume technology in different ways with previously inaccessible data being lusted after to analyse for new operational and commercial insights.
CIO’s need to help create the right mind-set and a shared understanding among key decision makers in the enterprise – to help them "get" the possibilities of digital business.
They must take a leadership role in helping their organisations change their mind-set to what's possible – and what's inevitable in a digital business future.
This should not be done in isolation or be detrimental to any key relationships such as that with the CMO as it’s imperative you work together and deliver the ‘right’ digital strategy for your organisation.
Get yourself in the digital driving seat and don't become a passenger. It’s going to be a busy year with a fair amount of turbulence, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.