CIOs Must Become Technology Consultants

If the 'old' CIO had a reputation of throwing up barriers, the 'new' CIO must focus on breaking down barriers to show marketing, finance, HR and other business leaders how IT services can help them become better within their particular operations.

The new role of the CIO can be summed up in one word: consultant.

"Technology's role in the business is increasing" beyond the purview of the traditional CIO, says Andrew Wilson, CIO at giant tech consultancy Accenture. "The CIO has to embrace the challenge."

In the old days, the CIO would green light or, more often, red light technology purchases and manage all the technology in their data centers. They would provide service to internal customers much like a big telephone company would for customers -- that is, at the CIO's discretion and with varying levels of customer service.

"A good consultant comes at it from an industry and client perspective and with an outcome rather than with tools and technology."

--Andrew Wilson, CIO at Accenture\

The CIO's Role Is A-Changing

Times, though, have changed dramatically in the last few years. New and exciting technology in social media, mobile and cloud have empowered business leaders to seize control and benefit from technology directly. Today's business leader seeks to adopt immature, consumer technology that the CIO used to shun.

It's now contingent upon the new CIO to make the technology sales pitches, not receive them. The new CIO must show how IT services can help business leaders become better within their particular operations, as well as how a cross-departmental, holistic approach raises the tide and lifts all boats. The new CIO must advise and assist on technology adoption, not give orders and mandates.

[Related: CIOs Destined to Be Kings of Customer Data]

In essence, the new CIO must become an internal tech consultant and reach out to business unit leaders in marketing, finance, human resources and other departments, Wilson says.

Andrew Wilson, Accenture CIO
Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson

CMOs, CFOs and chief human resource officers (CHRO) are all facing digital disruption within their departments and must quickly become technology evangelists. While they need help in doing so, many are loath to reach out to the CIO because of past experiences. The old CIO had a reputation of throwing up barriers.

In truth, though, the CIO is in the perfect position to make a sales pitch.

[Related: http://www.cio.com/article/748970/CMOs_Eye_CEO_Office_But_Need_CIOs_to_Get_There?taxonomyId=3174]

"I spent time with our chief marketing officer on how to bring alive the value proposition of technology, which may be quite leading edge and possibly something we might not have automatically adopted in the way we used to operate," Wilson says, adding, "Don't be competitive with the C-suite."

CIOs and CMO Suddenly Must Be BFFs

There is no question that the relationship between the CIO and CMO is going through a sea change, as the CMO is forced to become tech savvy. Social networking, mobility, customer data and analytics are giving rise to the digital marketer. Suddenly, the CIO and CMO roles are overlapping. Thus, the CIO has to become a partner with the CMO or risk being left out of the technology purchasing decision.

While technology is shaking up marketing, finance is also undergoing a transformation. A joint Oracle and Accenture survey of 1,275 mostly CFOs and senior finance executives found that the CFO needs to be a technology evangelist. Nearly three-quarters of finance executives believe new technologies, such as cloud, mobile and social media, will change how finance is structured and run.

[Related: Are CIOs Losing Power?]

Yet only 20 percent of C-level respondents say their finance departments have adopted leading-edge technology. New skills and analytics capabilities are needed to execute on modern finance's mandate, the study concludes. All of this makes a sales environment ripe for an internal tech consultant, such as the CIO.

"A good consultant comes at it from an industry and client perspective and with an outcome rather than with tools and technology," says Wilson. "I must not just be a technologist. I must be an articulate, collegiate business operator who also owns the technology responsibilities that enable the firm."

The new CIO will need to speak the language of the CFO, the CMO and even the CHRO.

Biggest Internal Client May Be HR

The HR function, too, is looking at a technology facelift with social tools for internal collaboration and external communication. Many CHROs are seeking transformative technologies in talent management and analytics.

[Related: CIOs Still in Control of Most IT Spending, Forrester Says]

Yet many CHROs lack a digital strategy. They're only beginning to apply analytics and social business to their processes. According to a recent IBM study, only 50 percent of the HR organizations surveyed use workforce analytics, with far fewer using predictive analytics to optimize decision making in areas such as sourcing and recruiting. Helping CHROs are at the top of the CIO's list this year, the IBM study concludes.

By now, it should be clear that CIOs must expand their role and be a consultant to the rest of the business, in addition to their current responsibilities. A recent study by Forrester found that the share of IT projects primarily or exclusively run by IT will decline from 55 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in 2015.

"Change in the CIO role is more prevalent now than at any point in my career," Wilson says, adding, "It's about running IT as a business."

What business would that be? A consultancy, of course.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

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