In a recent CIO magazine cover story, on CIOs who shoulder non-IT responsibilities, was a déjà vu moment — I know I read the same story in the ‘90s and ‘00s. In today’s digital business environment, the CIO role enjoys the broadest and deepest impact potential than at any other time in history. Yet, that question endures: “What can successful CIOs step up to?” I don’t think the answer is any one of the traditional C-suite positions, but rather, an emerging role rooted in the disruptive soil of the digital economy.
Nope, I don’t mean chief digital officer. That’s a transient position, tapped for the relatively short-term mission of catalyzing adoption of digital to disrupt a company’s traditional approach to business.
It’s not chief innovation officer, either. While CIOs could be effective at “officiating” an innovation pipeline and process, innovation is just one avenue leading to the destination of business transformation. Rather than the avenue, CIOs should be managing the road map.
Yep, the most logical step-up role for CIOs is chief transformation officer. This is an executive-level authority that drives, governs and is held accountable for the business’s strategy for transforming its business model, products/services, customer engagement, internal organization structures, and platforms and processes.
- Who better to see opportunities for transformation that span multiple functions and business units?
- Who has more experience influencing gung-ho and reluctant leaders to buy into and participate in change?
- Who better to bring organization to the chaos inherent in simultaneous change affecting thousands of employees across an enterprise?
- Who else could devise and implement an accelerated, agile, but rational and programmatic enterprise transformation process?
- Who could more effectively anticipate and plan for operational risks native to transformation?
- Who has more experience recognizing and introducing the technologies, old and new, to enable transformation and sustain its end-goals?
- Who could more effectively deal with outside consultants and vendors looking to hook up to your transformation gravy train?
And finally, who else could apply years of lessons learned in continuously transforming a complex, high-stakes function that is crucial to every part of the enterprise yet is chronically underfunded and talent starved? (Yes, I mean the IT department.)
Few companies can argue they are not on some sort of transformation journey to remain relevant, viable and thriving. More than 80 percent of the CIO Executive Council members we talk with every day claim transformation as a Top 3 priority. If that transformation spans more than a couple of business functions or units, it will benefit from dedicated executive oversight. The best executive to step up and provide that leadership is a strategic CIO. That’s my answer to “What should be next for CIOs.” Now ask yourself, “Is this what’s next for me?”