As the role of a CIO continues to become more consultative and with a greater emphasis on working hand-in-hand with the CEO to drive business results, he or she is often expected to align strategies and tactics in order to: (1) leverage technology to drive the greatest possible business outcomes, (2) enable cultural transformation within teams, and (3) exemplify resourcefulness.
Expectations are high, and with good reason: the modern CIO who can successfully take on these challenges and turn them into opportunities will be the alchemist-in-chief who propels their company towards becoming a digital leader in a rapidly-evolving business and technology landscape – and enables the harnessing of all the growth, acceleration and profitability that can follow.
Here are three ways to meet and surpass these expectations:
Blending Technology Expertise and Business Acumen
From cars to cloud computing, everything is turning hybrid – including a CIO’s role. The modern CIO understands that he or she will need to use a combination of technology expertise and business acumen to drive strategic corporate growth plans, and help the business find its competitive edge. Organizations in which the IT team works proactively with lines of business report 80% more revenue growth from established product lines – and 90% greater revenue growth from new product lines. It comes as no surprise that many CIOs are already focused on achieving this, increasingly devoting their time to strategic tasks while maintaining oversight of IT operations.
In this journey towards blending technology field expertise with business acumen, CIOs often look to their CEOs as key partners who can guide them to a deeper understanding of the business and its pain points and growth opportunities. Of course, this relationship is a two-way street: CEOs should also be more attuned to the broader IT needs of the organization, in order to be better-placed to make and support informed decisions that will benefit the entire company. It is pleasing to see that the number of CIOs sitting on their company’s executive committee has jumped from 38% in 2005 to 62% in 2017, and that their attendance at board meetings is now increasingly the norm: the stronger the partnership between the CIO and CEO, the greater the benefits that the organization will reap in the long run.
Enabling Cultural Transformation
Increasingly, the modern CIO is also looked to help drive cultural transformation within their companies – to help guide the overall workforce through digital, IT and security changes and ensure that each team has both the skills and the mindset to succeed. In research by Gartner, at least 8 in 10 CIOs at top-performing organizations have responsibilities outside the IT domain, in areas such as innovation and enterprise change. It makes complete sense for the CIO to be a natural advocate for, and leader of, cultural transformation: such change and preparedness is vital to the ultimate success of transformation initiatives, as is the imperative that the entire organization understands the goals and is happy to get on-board.
Two key pillars of that cultural transformation are the importance of learning and collaboration. Employees across the business will be challenged to adopt new skills and learn from a broader spectrum of colleagues in the digital transformation era. In addition, transformation is very much a team-sport, affecting the whole company and depending on cross-functional engagement and support for its ultimate success. By promoting and sustaining these key pillars in their companies, CIOs will help to build empowered teams that are stronger and more capable in the face of adversity – and better placed to deliver the transformative outcomes the business is looking for.
The transformation imperative is driving steadily-growing IT budgets: good news for CIOs, as more and more is expected of them. CIOs in this region can expect their IT budgets to grow by 3.5% in 2019, according to Gartner, although this is still a significant drop from the 5.1% increase that was forecast in 2018. A possible hindrance: close to half of APJ senior executives acknowledge that there are significant barriers keeping CIOs from collaborating more closely with their CFOs on IT transformation – with 45% of those executives believing that a lack of business expertise among CIOs contributes to this poor collaboration. This – and the fact that relatively few organizations assign a dedicated budget to digital transformation – shows how CIOs will need to continue to be masters of resourcefulness, influence and diplomacy as they seek cross-functional support to bring transformational initiatives to life, while attempting to do more with less.
It is clear that today’s CIOs are shouldering a broader set of hopes and expectations than their predecessors. As companies realize that IT should not be relegated to a mere supporting role, the CIO’s job has become a lot more interesting, not to mention strategic. After years of being undervalued, their time is now: watch as the CIO-alchemists turn their hand from managing IT hardware to driving greater revenues, profitability and growth for the companies they serve.
By Dmitri Chen, COO and Vice President Specialty Sales, APJ, Dell.
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