by Diana Bersohn

Top 5 actions CIOs should take in 2016

Jan 08, 2016
CIOIT LeadershipIT Strategy

As 2016 begins, it’s a great time for CIOs to think about their opportunity to wield greater influence across their organization.

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The beginning of the New Year is a time to reflect on the past, consider opportunities and plan for the future. As CIOs begin 2016, there is much to think about regarding their role and reach. CIOs increasingly have the opportunity to wield greater influence across their organization.

Now, more than ever, the time is right to seize opportunities and solidify the CIO’s rightful spot as a strategic leader within the organization’s C-suite. The five actions below are critical to helping CIOs and their IT organizations become nimble, effective and drive business value in a digital world.

1. Get strategy in shape

The CIO’s digital strategy must be about what’s next for digital. How can digital enable an organization to drive revenue and create results through innovation or new products, processes and experiences? “Going digital” has transcended being a lever for IT efficacy. Digital is a growth enabler, and CIOs are in charge of figuring out how to unleash digital power to fuel that growth.

Recent Accenture research shows a sharp divide between those who continue to view digital technology as a tool for steadily improving existing business activities — digital followers — and those who clearly see something much more profound — the digital transformers. CIOs can be transformers who work with other business leaders, such as the chief digital officer or chief marketing officer, to use the power of digital to reduce costs and drive growth.

[ Related: 7 marketing technology predictions for 2016; GE talks marketing automation at CES ]

2. Collapse internal and external boundaries

The divisions within a company are no longer rigid, thanks to the fluidity that IT enables. CIOs must continue to increase effective collaboration across the business and IT, with greater integration across the enterprise and the sharing of both financial and human resources. In addition to their role as enterprise-wide data stewards, the CIO can serve as an apostle of technology-driven business solutions that generate growth for the company.

[ Related: The CIO Turned Digital Leader ]

The CIO also can use technology to extend the reach of the business to a broader ecosystem of partners, the organizations with which a company works to source, innovate, produce, distribute, and sell and market products and services. Platforms are reshaping industries into interconnected ecosystems, according to 81 percent of executives surveyed for the 2015 Accenture Technology Vision. CIOs can take advantage of these digital platforms as a new source of value for the business—and its customers.

3. Advance the operating model

The ever-changing competitive environment and evolving customer expectations are rapidly reshaping the way companies deliver value. The operating model can foster the necessary agility to enable a company to adapt to changing circumstances, invest in innovation and fuel sustainable growth.

Specifically, today’s operating models must be capable of responding to many types of demand and disruption simultaneously, and the CIO organization needs the capability to work at multiple speeds, managing the steady state of the business even as it meets the needs of external partners and customers, and moves at speed to drive innovation. For instance, a bank needs to respond to customer demands for digital channels (e.g., mobile access to mortgage application status, or status of credit card payments) much more quickly than to internal requests for updates to a back-office accounting system.

[ Related: CIO-CDO Dual Role Reinforces the Digital Commitment ]

To advance the operating model, the CIO must incorporate multiple delivery methodologies, such as DevOps or continuous integration, for varied project types. CIOs should also review architecture to define how they can segment the technology landscape into multiple speeds that can adapt to business consumption and pace of change.

4. Redesign the IT workforce

To maximize IT talent and meet digital needs of the future, changes to roles and responsibilities must be considered. IT work is evolving beyond managing programs and developing software to integrate hybrid IT capabilities (legacy and cloud) into business-relevant services. At the same time, the lines between the business and IT are merging, and blended roles are emerging to meet new digital priorities.

[ Related: CIOs must overcome CEOs’ unclear strategy to drive digital transformations ]

The CIO can develop the IT organization by strategically upskilling, attracting and sourcing the right people who bring new skills, such as business acumen, cloud vendor management, data management, business intelligence/analytics, as well as business relationship management and collaboration skills.

CIOs also need to develop a workforce strategy that reflects increased automation and integration of robotic capabilities as part of the workforce of the future. Intelligent machines can augment higher-end skills and automate routine tasks and decisions. Supplement that with highly skilled people who bring good judgment, effective collaboration and an entrepreneurial spirit and you have a workforce that can increase business value.

5. Become the ‘conductor’ of innovation

CIOs need to remain relevant by orchestrating and participating in innovation across the business. According to the 2015 Accenture Technology Vision, only 34 percent of the executives surveyed expect the IT organization to be the main generator of innovation. A contributing factor is the increasing number of “new IT” workers embedded in business and corporate functions, such as finance. As a result, innovation frequently takes place outside of, and independent of, the IT organization.

The CIO can increasingly be a catalyst for innovation and an influencer of change in other areas of the business. For example, helping Finance to use IT to support business goals to increase transparency or product profitability.

Preparing for the future

These five actions are not the only priorities for CIOs in the New Year. But for many, getting these areas right will make the difference between sitting in the pilot’s seat or, figuratively speaking, being left behind in the cockpit as the enterprises in which they work carve out their approach to digital disruption. As such, business resilience, like other best practices, must be woven into the fabric of IT to help the organization create rapid response capabilities that also mitigate associated risks.

Indeed, 2015 was a busy year for CIOs. But 2016 now lies ahead as a year of opportunity as CIOs work with their organization to deliver the solutions their companies need to secure their digital future.