Transformational CIOs juggle innovation and operations

Our exclusive 2016 State of the CIO research reveals that the CIO role is growing more critical to the business and more complex to inhabit, as top IT executives simultaneously battle cybersecurity threats, increasing business demands and challenges to their control.

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With the extreme focus on enterprise digital transformation, most companies today are in a state of technology flux. At the same time, IT organizations are faced with a host of tactical challenges -- from defending against increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats to incorporating the proliferation of cloud computing offerings and evolving IT delivery models.

It's little wonder that an overwhelming number of IT leaders -- 88 percent -- say that their role is becoming increasingly challenging, according to CIO.com's 2016 State of the CIO survey. Even more telling, 71 percent of the 571 IT leaders surveyed said it's difficult to strike the right balance between innovation and operational excellence in this business environment.

Consider the case of Jack Belcher. He became the first CIO of Virginia's Arlington County more than 15 years ago and has established himself as both a change agent and a capable tactician. His accomplishments range from setting up an emergency operations center after the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, to a revenue-generating move last year to make the county the first in the D.C. area to sell access to its high speed broadband network to federal agencies and other organizations. "Our emphasis is innovation," Belcher says, "but maintaining operational excellence is creating a great amount of stress on existing resources."

It's a sign of the post-recession, pregrowth times. But for IT leaders like Belcher, who continue to emphasize their transformational and strategic roles, successfully managing diverse challenges could ultimately cement a partnership role with the business and pave the way for IT to increase its impact on business outcomes.

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