Turn back a page and it only seems yesterday that a CIO’s raisons d’être was primarily cost containment – supporting the business with vital software and infrastructure in the most cost-effective way possible. These vigilant tech-wizards were often viewed as little more than “network plumbers” and back office operatives whose role was largely to keep the wheels turning, ensure that various data pipes were connected, and avert the business from downtime and disaster.
Flash forward to the digital age where extraordinary technological advancements are transforming the very fabric of our society and posing existential threats to established business models, and we find a new CIO catapulted from relative obscurity to a central and strategic place in the business hierarchy.
Today, robotic process automation, AI and machine learning algorithms have rapidly infiltrated new apps, devices and platforms, parsing data at hypersonic speed. This torrent of data and information brings with it a wealth of untapped opportunities and harnessing them into actionable insights is a key differentiator for businesses to gain that all-important competitive edge in the market.
With the market in a flux with these tectonic shifts at play, it’s not surprising that the very DNA of a CIOs’ role has changed in step with these developments. How CIOs translate data-driven insights into cutting-edge innovations will determine which side their firms play in the digital game of disruption. To make that happen, we need a new kind of CIO – a CIO of the future.
Next-gen CIOs are here to stay
Businesses today operate in a whitespace where change is the only constant. This accelerated rate of change is being fueled to a large extent by millennials with their unquenchable thirst for the next bigger, better and smarter product. Mass personalization is the name of the game and companies are vying to deliver bespoke solutions that tick all the right boxes in terms of brand experience and novelty.
In our fast-moving digital economy, a ‘wait and watch’ approach won’t fly. Business models must react almost instantly and intuitively to the changing market demands. As a result, today’s CIO has no choice but to come out of the shadows of the server room and take up a unique role: one that bestrides the boardroom and the back office.
In the “uberized” business landscape, successful CIOs must evolve beyond “chief information officers” into innovation engines and “chief orchestrators”, connecting the dots and the different silos of the business.
The recipe for success
CIOs today need a confluence of capabilities to drive the organization of the future forward. Technology skills must be infused in equal measure with business acumen and leadership qualities to produce the perfect blend of a strategic business advisor who can balance efficiency gains with innovation.
Here are the 7 key ingredients that will define a next-gen CIO’s success in the digital age:
- A focus on integrated services
In the digital age, the CIO’s success is measured not only by what they build, but the services that they develop and integrate into the business. We are seeing a clear shift from buying and managing fixed assets to one who manages a range of services (e.g. infrastructure, application, and security). Those who exploit these resources and integrate them most effectively will have a major head-start on their competitors.
- Creating new hybrid functions
Today’s business ecosystem calls for cross-functional experience and versatile capabilities. This powerhouse role should be a CMO, COO and CFO all rolled into one and therefore be heavily connected with global services functions such as marketing, HR, finance, procurement, sales, and supply chain to ensure the best possible organizational agility.
- Building strong C-level relationships
The success of this new role hinges on strong C-level relationships. Engaging beyond the conventional IT network and maintaining a close working relationship with the CFO is not enough. Evolving new partnerships with the chief marketing officer, CEO and COO is key. Authenticating this, recent research by MIT shows that CIOs now spent about 40% of their time engaging with non-IT peers.
- Aligning the digital strategy
A next-gen CIO will be responsible for hiring the chief digital officer (CDO), an indispensable role for the modern, forward-looking business. Many leading companies are starting to introduce the role of CDO as an orchestrator of digital innovations. The CDO has the mission to collect, feed and grow disruptive products and services. In concert with a CIO, this role can help lead the transition into new digitally-enabled opportunities that unlock the power of algorithms and automated, intelligent workflows.
- Removing silos
The legacy, silo’d IT organization is fast-disappearing. In its place, technology experts will work hand-in-hand with the business to drive innovation. The shift to data-driven processes means that businesses and technology must work closely together to craft use cases and differentiated processes – but this all rests on removing the barriers towards effective information sharing across premises and departments, which must be a strategic priority for CIOs.
- Calibrating the balance
The importance of network effects continues to be amplified in several areas of today’s digital business landscape. To harness this dynamic, organizations should leverage digital assets to create new interactions with consumers, partners and employees, making themselves incredibly easy to do business with.
- Combining standardization with decentralization
Perhaps the single most powerful step a CIO can take is to free their organization’s data from its applications. Creating a single “system of record” for data, applications, and web services, CIOs can dramatically reduce the time needed to stitch together new business use cases.
With the stage set for a major power shuffle as digital disruptions intensify, these 7 critical steps, coupled with an unbridled spirit of innovation, can transform CIOs into powerful business saviors for their organizations.
Managing Partner, Infosys Consulting
Dan has 25 years of management consulting experience across the retail, CPG and distribution industries. He currently manages the supply chain group for Infosys Consulting in the U.S., overseeing some of our top clients such as XPO Logistics, TKE, Sprint and Microsoft. He is also a member of the U.S. leadership team and leads a number of corporate initiatives to support our firm’s growth strategy. Dan has worked across all components of business and technical transformations during his career. Prior to joining Infosys Consulting, he led the consumer packaged goods, retail, and distribution service practice at Capgemini Consulting.