The Innovative CIO: The Catalyst to Driving Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is too often like a muscled race horse that’s eager to gallop out the gate, but doesn’t yet have a rider who can tame its speed and power. In other words, when it comes to digital transformation, it’s usually clear that it needs to move forward, but it’s not always clear who in the C-suite should be guiding it.

Research by the Altimeter Group found that 34 percent of digital transformation efforts are owned by the CMO, followed by the CEO (27 percent), CIO (19 percent), and the CDO (15 percent).

When it comes to leading digital strategy, we think that a CIO with an innovative mindset—and the right team—is ideally positioned to take the helm. CIOs have insight into all areas of the business and the technical know-how and experience to understand how technology can help, or hurt, business goals.

But, with talent shortages top-of-mind, many CIOs are painfully aware that rapidly advancing technologies like cloud, analytics, and AI demand highly specialized skills. As Workday CIO Diana McKenzie said, “CIOs need to craft a vision and create an environment that enables them to seed their organization with the right mix of external talent that possess these skills, while also investing to develop their existing internal talent base in order to build a team capable of delivering on the promise of these new technologies.”

CIOs who want to help drive their company’s digital agenda must be able to articulate the business benefits to stakeholders.

Having the right people on hand is just one of many hurdles a CIO has to overcome in the race to innovation. CIOs often face cultural challenges associated with convincing organizational leaders and their teams to embrace digital transformation, particularly since it typically involves making changes to their workstyles and traditional business processes. And, because digital transformation is now a business imperative, CIOs who want to help drive their company’s digital agenda must be able to articulate the business benefits to stakeholders.

This starts with clearly communicating the vision for the company’s digital transformation objectives across various roles and organizational teams, says Mark Overton, CIO at HKS, Inc., a global architectural firm.

“The CIO needs to make sure that everyone understands what the end goal is and their role in making these changes,” says Overton. “You have to break that fear down with continuous communication.”

Once the company’s digital vision has been shared with all stakeholders, Overton recommends finding influential sponsors within the business who are eager to embrace the challenges of digital transformation and support the vision. Enterprise-wide buy-in can be further strengthened by partnering with key business stakeholders and investing in small scale, digitally-enabled proof-of-concept initiatives.

For more insights and advice, including best-practices examples from, how data-driven decision-making can help you get a jump on the competition, and an infographic on the personality traits of successful CIOs, download The Innovative CIO—the Catalyst to Driving Digital Transformation.