How the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) is changing

on 03 September 2015

You probably don't need us to tell you that the role of CIO is changing, or that all executives now need to understand IT. The question is how is the role changing, and here we aim to offer some answers.

Forrester Research ran a survey in which they asked respondents who they considered to be the most important executive when it came to driving and/or supporting the transformation of a business.  The clear winner was a CIO, well ahead of the CEO in second place.

It is already clear that businesses need to embrace digital innovation in order to create a more positive customer experience. This effectively means that in many companies the role of CIO is fast becoming THE most important. Not only this but it is also the fastest evolving, and this could be where long time CIO's struggle as they need to get to grip with all these changes; and fast.

An article appeared in Computer Weekly about this very subject and it stated that many IT departments still haven't grasped the ways in which they have to change. If you are an 'old school' CIO who spends the majority of your time concentrating on ERP (enterprise resource planning), networks, data centres and how you can lower your operating costs then your whole world could be about to change.

Cloud based applications and SaaS (Software as a Service) are both playing a bigger role than ever before which means that managing the traditional back off of the IT department will no longer be the CIO's chief focus. SaaS will both reduce the cost and move from fixed capex (capital expenditure) to variable opex (operating expenditure). It will also significantly reduce the complexity and effort of traditional IT systems support and projects. This effectively means that IT departments will have both money and time freed up which can be better spent on innovation directed at the customers.

Strategy of the business and IT varieties were once completely separate entities but they are now fusing into one. IT is now joining marketing and finance to become the 3rd function which drives profitability. As IT is becoming an ever more central part of both managing costs and driving revenue the approach of companies towards IT is now inextricably linked with the wider objectives related to business development.

There has also been a shift in what is known as “authority over data”. Whereas IT was once more about the physical servers, with the CIO essentially holding the keys to them, we are seeing many more processes and functions being outsourced. The explosion of cloud computing has also had a huge impact on the role of CIO as they no longer have to physically release data to others it is accessible to all those with the authority to do so.

All of the above has led to a major shift in the significance of the role of CIO. Whereas before the power a CIO held may come from them having the knowledge of computer systems which others didn't have it is now very much becoming a much more leadership based role. This new role also means that a modern CIO will include the management and coordination of and with a wide variety of outside suppliers and companies.

Today's CIO's have to strike a balance between managing both internal and external teams.  When it comes to the management of external teams the competencies which are becoming ever more essential are that of managing the external resources and possessing partnering skills. If your company's IT systems aren't now centralised within your offices and are dependent on a range of external suppliers then having the ability to both optimise and coordinate these areas becomes a key part of today's CIO role.


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