IT leadership’s new rules of engagement

CIOs driving digital transformation are operating from a different playbook than in the past, including more focus on customers, business strategy, and oversight of new revenue and functional areas.

IT leadership’s new rules of engagement
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In the lead up to Synchrony Financial being spun out from parent company GE and launching an initial public offering (IPO), Carol Juel was front and center explaining the newly independent company’s business strategy and innovation plans. Juel was even known to cart giant poster boards from meeting-to-meeting to help customers, partners, and internal employees fully grasp the new firm’s digital mission.

Juel isn’t Synchrony Financial’s CEO, COO, or even its CFO, but she was the right messenger at the time because as CIO, Juel was a key driver of digital transformation.  “The role of the CIO is now about driving relationships across the management team, ensuring that the company and board of directors understand the role of technology and what the potential is,” explains Juel, who is also a Synchrony executive vice president. “I see my job as helping to connect the dots and figure out a way to communicate where we need to go in a way that people will understand.”

Of all the leadership roles, the CIO is evolving the fastest with the most change and opportunity. Today’s CIOs are expected to meet with and educate customers and partners so they understand new technology-driven business initiatives. They are taking management responsibility for additional functional areas and new revenue streams, and they are serving as business strategists. The 2019 State of the CIO survey, which surveyed 683 IT leaders, confirmed CIOs are operating from a different playbook than in the past: Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they are spending more time on business strategist functions to help drive innovation and nurture go-to-market plans and 81 percent acknowledged an expanding role with greater responsibilities.

Oversight of data analytics efforts is by far the most high-profile new addition to CIOs’ ever-expanding plate, cited by 64 percent of respondents to the 2019 State of the CIO survey. CIOs are also taking ownership of projects and work products in areas such as operations (43%), business development (38%), customer service (32%), and product development (29%). Beyond new management responsibilities, more than half of survey respondents (62%) confirmed they were tasked with new revenue-generating responsibilities, including oversight of new products and services, as part of their evolving job descriptions.

It’s a tall order, and to rise to the challenges of a digitally-charged future, CIOs are embracing new rules of engagement. Many are striking partnerships with leaders in other functional areas while developing command of the overall business and core objectives that goes far beyond understanding how to transform business processes. Like Synchrony’s Juel, CIOs are also polishing up their communications and presentation skills as there’s a growing requirement to be comfortable embedding with external customers as well as addressing the board of directors to effectively navigate these new directions.

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