CIOs need to carefully define boundaries between product research and team support

The exploding opportunities that data technology and market disruptors are uncovering requires clearly defined areas of responsibility that reduce the potential for burnout in a critical executive role.

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This is the digital age. No, wait, this is really the cloud age. Or, maybe it’s the age of the sharing economy. No matter what label you try to place on this decade of technological evolution, CIOs are battling to clearly define their roles.

In a world where everything is impacted by technology, and the information that tech can communicate and gather, the Chief INFORMATION Officer is wearing more hats than ever before. Mission creep is real.

So, how do CIOs in large organizations with diverse needs clearly define their role and keep burnout at bay?

Encourage the expansion of other C-suite roles into the tech space

If a large organization decides they need to engage in “digital transformation” – I can’t tell you how many times I hear that phrase misused in the boardroom – it’s only natural that they turn to the person on the team that’s been making tech magic happen for years: the CIO.

You cannot allow yourself to be the only person with responsibility for tech. Your best ally is the CMO. In most large companies, the CMO’s tech budget rivals the CIO’s. And that’s good news.

But then there’s product research and development. And, depending on the nature of the business, countless other outlets where tech innovation is radically changing the way business is done.

Find competent, reliable outside vendors

One of the ways to resist mission creep – getting sucked into an endless number of meetings to provide technical wisdom – is to outsource. Of course, outsourcing to the wrong vendor can be disastrous. But most large organizations have a well-established process for vetting outside suppliers and consultants.

I’ve been through the ringer on that one more than once. And while it’s frustrating, I understand the necessity. And when it comes to interfacing someone else’s tech with your own, both security and compatibility become top priorities.

But there’s one glaring advantage to CIOs that choose to outsource: They remain in an executive role, supervising execution. This is far better than being sucked into the front lines, being needled and prodded for new solutions. It’s much more efficient to leverage the variety of innovations found in the marketplace, instead of trying to solely rely on internal innovation.

For example, FarmaTrust is a global pharmaceutical tracking solution backed by AI and the blockchain that integrates with pharma companies, governments and regulators to keep counterfeit drugs out of the supply chain. CEO Raja Sharif shared with me that their corporate clients are evolving more rapidly by carefully outsourcing to leaders in different technologies. While this isn’t a new strategy, it can be tricky. He feels that their core values allow them to streamline interfacing their technology with existing corporate infrastructure. These core values include the construction of a platform that is compliant with every international regulation governing the use of blockchain and AI to leverage location data. And their commitment to remaining system neutral allows them to bake-in solutions to compatibility from the beginning. And of course, industry-leading encryption becomes the standard when dealing with the transmission of proprietary corporate data.

Effective CIOs can sidestep mission creep by leveraging credible vendors with proven track-records to take the burden of innovation off their plate – shifting their focus back to supporting the technical backbone of the company.

Be the keeper of the data, not the data wizard

Some CIOs are also facing the challenge of an executive team that pounds their fist on the table, demanding more and more data-driven decision-making. Data analytics is a powerful tool for capitalizing on the advantages of being an established player with existing market data. But, CIOs should resist the urge to dive-in.

In Deloitte’s Analytics Advantage Survey, the many facets of data analysis are unraveled in a way that’s easy for everyone in an organization to comprehend. It’s fascinating to find that while executives want data-driven solutions, many managers push-back against their instincts being overruled by a computer. And then there’s the challenge of securing funding to build-out data analysis infrastructure and teams.

Data analysis is the golden goose for corporations, but it represents a political quagmire for CIOs. To avoid mission creep, this is one area where CIOs should aggressively lobby for the appointment of a Chief Data Scientist with broad powers to manage their division. This shifts responsibility from the CIO to a specialized team.

In conclusion, CIOs are being hit from many directions. Innovation is a cornerstone of technology, and that’s part of why most CIOs chose their career path. But the exploding opportunities that data technology and market disruptors are uncovering requires clearly defined areas of responsibility that reduce the potential for burnout in a critical executive role.

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