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The CIO in the Digitalization Era

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February 22, 2017

CIOs Digitalization: an Evolving Role in the IT Organization

Confronting the Changes to the Traditional Role of the CIO

The role of the CIO has drastically changed in recent years in response to rapid changes to the technology enterprise. Advances in technology are happening with greater speed and frequency, and according to TechTarget, CIOs need to keep pace with change and be open to shifting traditional responsibilities.

There are a lot of external forces that are influencing the transformation of the modern CIO. The way technology is managed by the IT organization is changing in response to greater demands on behalf of end users, as well as the proliferation of cloud and mobility, as reported by CIO from IDG. IT has entered the digital world, and the CIO has to follow.

A Few Factors for Change:

  • The infamous cloud

    Even though it’s one of the most widely discussed topics in IT in recent years, the cloud hasn’t entirely taken the place of physical resources. More than half of CIOs are concerned about security and data protection in the cloud.

  • Sitting at the forefront of the board table

    They often have to drive the development of core business (and often customer-facing) applications that help the business improve its competitive advantage by improving its customer experience and reducing costs and driving efficiencies.

  • Fighting to get the right talent and keeping it

    The average lifecycle of an IT employee is less than 3 years, and that becomes even shorter for highly-sought-after professionals like developers.  New-age CIOs have to ensure they can afford and find the right talent, and they also have to figure out ways to keep it.

  • Keeping pace with threats – especially cybersecurity threats.

    As everything becomes digital, all their critical systems and critical customer information become an easy target for hackers. Many of them tell us they struggle to keep up with all the cybersecurity threats because they change and evolve so quickly.

  • Making sure costs stay down, but producing more.

    There is a perception about IT that the more you invest in technology, the more economies of scale you should see. That often means that the CIO is asked to scale the business at incredible rates, producing cost efficiencies while also driving very critical projects.

What’s Bringing on all the Change?

The Digital Revolution has taken over, and the collective voice of consumers is saying, “I want more, and I want it now,” across every imaginable industry. Power is now in the hands of the consumer regardless of the product, and responding to digital demands with timely adoption is easier said than done—it’s also in the hands of the CIO.

The cloud has been around for a while, but its impact on IT is still revolutionary. The days of physical hardware maintenance are in the past for many organizations, which has considerable implications for the IT team. They now have freedom from the demands of blinking lights and alerts, and the resulting ability to pursue IT activities that are more critical to the core of the business. The CIO needs to clearly define where IT should be focusing their efforts.

Mobility and BYOD go hand in hand with digitalization. The mobile workforce has swiftly become the norm and the flexibility to use personal devices in the workplace is expected.

So many fundamental changes to technology delivery also bring increased security challenges, which are yet another responsibility of the modern CIO. Such fundamental changes include:

  • Digitalization
  • Cloud proliferation
  • Mobility and BYOD adoption
  • Increasing security challenges
  • Big data
  • Tech moving to the forefront of businesses

Security by design and proactivity have replaced retrofitting security solutions and reactively responding to security events, and the CIO needs to have a robust strategy for detecting, managing, and mitigating potential and active threats to the business.

CIOs must work with other business leaders to make technology decisions that ultimately benefit the bottom line. TechTarget further explained that a CIO’s primary responsibility is no longer IT infrastructure maintenance, but working in a very multidimensional role focused on embracing digital initiatives and fostering business value.

Duties of the Modern CIO

  • Drive business value
  • Innovate business processes
  • Manage the consumerization of IT
  • Undertake big data challenges
  • Lead digitalization initiatives
  • Facilitate mobility

Adapting to New Expectations

Although the CIO of the digital era is now facing a new set of responsibilities, making the switch seamless is possible with the right goals and outlook. Successfully adapting to change hinges partially on attitude, and partially on technology.

Knowing that functioning as a business leader and advisor is a major component of the CIO’s role is a great place to start. Being in communications with executive leadership from the beginning of tactical and strategic changes through implementation is critical—the modern CIO now has the power to contribute considerable value. Technology is no longer simply a function of business; it’s an enabler.

TechTarget explained that business is focused on figuring out ways to generate new streams of revenue, adjust business models, and create products and services as a result of technology innovations. As a result, these ambitions are where the CIO needs to place particular emphasis.

Further, understanding what should be the core competencies of the modern IT department is also key.

Core IT Functions of Today

  • Managing vendors

    Outsourcing is becoming a norm among IT organizations. Some verticals are still hesitant, but ultimately, using reliable technology partners for IT functions that aren’t core to the organization benefits businesses operationally and economically. Forward-thinking CIOs should be paying specific attention to eliminating any IT activities that are not part of core competencies.

  • Managing delivery

    Around-the-clock connectivity and the constant demand for real-time data means having to execute IT activities quickly, but also flexible. Consequently, project management from beginning stages through delivery is critical to the success of the IT department.

  • Managing data

    The age of digitalization has made data precious to businesses across all departments. Managing the mass amounts of data the typical business generates has become a very important part of the CIO’s role, including tactics for collecting, storing, and structuring the data, as well as making the data consumable for users.

  • Architecture and design

    The new light speed of business creates the need for total flexibility and agility in the IT department. This means that the architecture that supports IT operations has to be strong and accommodative of potential new technology solutions.

Having the Right Leadership Perspective on IT Operations

Technology is obviously key to the CIO, but it’s no longer the primary focus. In fact, the CIO of today doesn’t necessarily need deep technical expertise in order to bring value to the business. Perspective is everything when it comes to making contributions to business leadership a success.

Here are a few ways that the modern CIO can work well alongside executive leadership:

  • Accept that the role is changing, and will continue to do so.
  • Be prepared to do things differently down the road.
  • Become an active part of company culture and strategy.
  • Support the strategic direction of the executive team.
  • Take on responsibilities not assigned to other executives, and demonstrate the ability to be an enterprise-wide leader capable of taking on diverse responsibilities.

Positive Outcomes for the Adaptable CIO

Overall, staying current and being open to changes from both a technology and attitude perspective will allow CIOs to be adaptable and continue to make positive business impacts. As long as CIOs manage the core functions of their IT departments while embracing the changes that digitalization brings, making the transition can be seamless.

If your role as a CIO is creating the need to assess technology vendors in order to enable IT employees to focus on critical activities, talking with Peak 10 is a great place to start. Our colocation and cloud experts can help pinpoint the areas of IT that will work well in a third-party environment.

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