As organisations across every industry look to harness emerging technologies to drive business transformation and growth, the role of chief information officer is undergoing its own evolutionary journey.
Deloitte’s 2018 third and final CIO legacy report, Manifesting Legacy, reveals a need for CIOs to reinvent themselves by shifting from the traditional technology stewardship role, to one of contributing partner that helps to shape the future of the business.
A shift in how business expectations are evolving is evident, and IT is more frequently being brought to the table to discuss business issues. Many CIOs are recognising the changes needed, and expect that leadership expectations, and CIO responsibilities, will evolve to be more transformative and growth orientated over the next three years.
While operational efficiency and reliability will likely remain a given, the responsibilities of the trusted operator will likely become table stakes, as the day-to-day management of the technology infrastructure is delegated to others within the IT organisation or, in some cases, outsourced to external vendors.
For many, the transition from functional leader to organisation leader will be challenging. Many CIOs rose to the position of IT leader based more on technology know-how than on vision, communication or relationship skills. Looking forward, however, the traditional competencies around delivering results, and being problem solvers, will likely carry less weight.
As technology gurus, many CIOs are well positioned to inform, shape and lead their organisations’ digital efforts. To become the leader that today’s organisations need and demand, CIOs will likely have to develop the business and soft skills necessary to translate technology expertise into business solutions that drive revenue and efficiencies.
The 2018 survey data shows that CIOs recognise the need to evolve specific leadership skills in the future — ones that are focused on delivering major organisational change (66%), building high-performance teams (63%) and influencing others (48%). In addition, they will likely need to develop leadership values that centre on providing direction, harnessing innovation and empowering others to drive the digital agenda.
By leveraging their technology and business expertise, CIOs can use digital to become more engaged with strategic business initiatives and to help drive true transformation throughout the IT organisation and across the business. Digital can present CIOs with the exciting opportunity to become the business leaders that they want to be — and that their organisations need.
As technology leaders, CIOs with vision, communication skills and relationships will be well positioned to command more influence, and responsibility, than ever before. It is clear that it is no longer viable to be a trusted operator, as the role will likely become obsolete.
Nearly 70% of survey respondents agree that in the next three years, the CIO — even more than the CEO (61%) — will have one of the most important roles in driving digital initiatives. You cannot successfully drive digital initiatives if you continue to function as a trusted operator — as 55% of CIOs surveyed in 2018 did — merely focusing on IT efficiency, reliability and cost containment.
While new organisations are born digital, many CIOs in organisations that are digital non-natives struggle to close the gap between traditional technology stacks, and emerging digital capabilities such as cloud, mobile, social, automation, cognitive and more that can enable streamlined processes, increase employee and customer engagement, and drive new business models.
CIOs of the future will need to do more than provide enabling technologies, and align with business strategy, and the process needs to start with them shedding the perception that they are operationally focused. Univar CIO Eric Foster notes that it is critical for CIOs to ensure that IT strikes the right balance between driving future tech-enabled disruption, and being too focused on day-to-day technology needs. “Otherwise,” he says, “it’s easy to suffer from the perception that we’re not thinking about business value and outcomes.”
While there has certainly been stagnation in the role over the years, there are some CIOs who have successfully progressed in their evolution, becoming instigators of change, taking the lead on technology-enabled business transformation, or driving and enabling growth through the execution of business strategy, as business co-creators. It is these two pattern types that will likely contribute to the two mandates of the CIO in the future—transforming business operations and driving top-line revenue and growth.
Are you satisfied being known mostly as a competent functional leader, or do you want more? That’s a choice you may need to face sooner than you think. Digital currently presents an uncommon opportunity for CIOs to reinvent themselves, by realigning their roles to the new business reality. It offers the ability for forward-thinking CIOs to help shape and lead the digital future of their organisation while remaining relevant in the years to come. It’s time for you to give your future considered thought and to decide what kind of CIO you want to be.
- Arun Babu is digital and technology leader for Deloitte Consulting Africa