The role of the CIO has been on a rapid evolutionary path over the past decade, yet more changes are required if CIOs are to successfully lead digital strategies for their organizations in today’s complex and ever-changing economy.
CIOs once dealt primarily in managing technology systems that made processes more efficient. As technology evolved, the role meant more emphasis on making different hardware systems, applications, and connectors communicate with one another. With the onset of the internet, connectivity in all its various forms became the primary goal.
In today’s economic environment, CIOs are required to play a much broader and more strategic role. To be successful, they must have deep business knowledge along with technical depth, and demonstrate leadership capabilities that help drive critical growth and market opportunities. For many CIOs, this will require a transition in what they understand and how they apply it.
Based on current research and input from a variety of CIOs (covered in more detail in our feature story), there are four key skills required for CIOs to thrive as leaders in the future.
The Know-How to Deliver Data
To successfully articulate and execute a digital agenda, CIOs need to first have a deep understanding of their business and how to map a technology architecture that fits business goals. As businesses become increasingly complex, this is no small task.
CIOs will have to step outside of their traditional comfort zone and figure out how to evangelize the power of IT initiatives to the rest of the company.
Yet there is always one constant in the requirement to map architecture to goals: Truly executing on the “information” part of IT. The CIO needs to recognize that providing managers and employees with access to technology won’t be enough; the better approach is to ensure that relevant data can be pulled together from different sources so people can act on it. Additionally, IT must work with partners around the business to make sure the right people have access to the data they need.
Ability to Serve as Business and Technical Advisor
The scope of many CIOs has been focused on delivering technology solutions to internal customers, but this is rapidly expanding. In today’s hyper-connected, global economy, CIOs need to build their business acumen along with their technology skill sets and use them to create a digital leadership strategy. In doing so, they can become business advisors able to define and execute on digital strategies that make their companies more efficient through new, profitable digital channels.
Changing that focus means emphasizing business and technology goals equally. It requires that CIOs use a new language—one that references customers and the financial bottom line, speaks to business leaders in business as opposed to technology language, and considers cost as a factor in deploying technology.
Willingness to Emphasize and Evangelize
Creating and delivering on that digital agenda means automating, analyzing, and improving the user experience through software applications, web services, APIs, hardware, and any other types of technologies that help drive business goals. It’s a big task, but one that is incumbent upon the CIO of the future.
Where CIOs once focused efforts on efficiency and process, they are now driving a digital vision that is deeply embedded in business goals.
As part of delivering these types of solutions, CIOs must also communicate their vision. They will have to learn how to step outside of their traditional comfort zone and figure out how to evangelize the power of IT initiatives to the rest of the company. The more that employees hear the CIO’s message, the more they will see it as something embedded into the way they work.
Ability to Develop Customer-First Strategies
The CIO must use technology as a tool for connecting the right people to one another, and to the right information. The CIO must figure out how to create an infrastructure that always supports customers’ needs. This includes both delivering information to customers and using analytics about customer usage to help improve how to service customers. It also means that, because there is more access, there needs to be a pervasive security model that controls access and data usage across all users and stakeholders.
Where CIOs once focused efforts on efficiency and process, they are now driving a digital vision that is deeply embedded in business goals. The skills needed to be effective in their role are changing, but they do not necessarily call for a complete make-over. Rather, by using the skills they are already using, and pairing them with these four new skills, CIOs can become business and technology leaders who guide their organizations into the future.
For a more in-depth look at this topic read, “CIO of the Future: Combining Technology and Business Expertise.”