Last week I facilitated a lunch session with almost 20 of Sydney’s leading CIOs to discuss their changing roles in the digital world. Topics ranged from using new digital technologies to enhancing client’s businesses and how slow traditional vendors are to transition to new digital services. We also talked about the need for IT departments to redesign their operations and how the role of the CIO fits into the future.
CIOs were most interested in how to use new and emerging digital technologies to enhance business growth and how CIOs can assist CEOs with business growth objectives. From this discussion it is obvious CIOs are at a crossroad in defining their role.
They recognise there is a unique opportunity to leverage technology to help business growth but identified the following barriers to achieving this:
- Underinvestment in IT for more than a decade as business leaders treated IT as a business commodity rather than as a business enabler.
- Outdated legacy infrastructure and core business systems.
- High reliance on IT vendors who are slow in changing their products and services
- Lack of understanding of technological benefits and how they can contribute to business growth.
- Lack of CIO involvement in strategic business discussions and decisions.
Once barriers are recognized and solutions identified, CIOs can commit to shaping business strategies and growth. Analysts and thought leaders have talked about the demise of CIOs for almost a decade; however, CIOs are needed more than ever before.
Good CIOs show growth oriented organizations how to use new technologies to benefit their business. More importantly, CIOs can ensure the organization leverages technologies to set them apart from their competitors while managing cost or risk exposure.
CIOs are highly skilled using technical expertise to “keep the IT engine” working 24/7 while simultaneously using creative skills to facilitate the innovative use of new technologies for growth and customer engagement. CIOs need to embrace this dual role with importance emphasized on strategic business matters.
In situations where the CEO and senior executive feel that their CIO is not sufficiently business-centric a new trend of engaging a chief digital officer (CDO) is emerging to accelerate the flow of digital benefits into the “front office” or customer facing areas. This may not be necessary, if CIOs can redefine their role as business leaders responsible for leveraging technology advancements for business growth, They should take an ‘outside-in’ approach to their business than the traditional ‘inside-out’ of approach.
So, how can CIOs contribute to business growth agendas? CIOs can help their CEOs by:
- Understanding new technologies and creating innovation hubs to benefit business
- Becoming a champion of industry and organisational digital business strategies
- Engaging middle and senior managers to co-create innovative solutions in partnership with vendors.
- Introducing collaborative tools and self-service portals to reduce human capital costs.
- Educating Boards, CEOs and senior executives about disruptive trends and opportunities.
- Actively engaging with vendors, industry bodies, experts and thought leaders to understand strategic trends in the industry to leverage innovative opportunities
- Adopt a lean start-up approach to developing new ideas, products and services.
As a former CIO, I believe current technological advancements provide excellent opportunities for CIOs to actively contribute to shaping business strategies and growth. Yes, CIO can become the champions of business growth!