Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Rise of CIO Role

As the rising leadership role, CIOs must be business strategists, change agents and champions for evolution within their organizations.

Due to the changing nature of technologies, the CIO role is also continuously in hot debate, if the curse for the CIO’s demise doesn’t come true, then perhaps the opposite is the reality – Digital is the era for the rise of the CIO role. Still, it is a tough journey: What are the main challenges that CIOs face in the digital era? Are they technological or are they actually business challenges – Agility, Risk, Cost (ROI/TCO), etc? What is the best influence CIOs can make for their businesses and which barriers you need to overcome?

Improving business effectiveness: The most critical thing is that much of the ­transformation hinges on organizations is being willed to understand and foster the power of someone (CIO) who can help drive change. This is by far the most important message that needs to be communicated to businesses, executive peers and Boards. The CIO is required to think about business first, technology second. Technology is one of the tools the CIO uses to help move the business in the direction of meeting its strategic objectives. This strategic focus is all the more important in the current environment where technological advances happen at a rapid pace. It is easy to get caught up in the race toward being at the cutting-edge, but foresight and careful thought are required to truly understand the implications of new technology. The CIO needs to be the visionary derives the most value out of the technology investments by translating the promise of technology to a strategic and competitive advantage for the company. The questions would be:
-How do you handle investigations of new technologies? 
-Do you work with your team to investigate different paths for the potential future? 
-How do you prioritize the need or desire to innovate? 
-How do you socialize those prioritized needs with the rest of the company executives?

 Increasing agility: More than anything else, the CIO is now expected to be more of a business leader first and a technologist second. Based on the business oversight CIOs can bring, they are in a unique position to increase business agility. The CIO is now expected to have business acumen and a fair understanding of finance and marketing. It's not enough just to understand technology, one has to be a business leader that knows how to leverage technology to meet the company's goals. When the CIO role is executed well any organization can benefit exponentially. Technology enables agility when used more effectively. Hence, the role of the CIO has moved so much towards the business end of the spectrum that they have to understand both sides of the coin. As long as they have an ability to understand technology, they can rely on the architecture team for the deep technical knowledge and insight to optimize business capability and increase agility. What they do need, however, is an ability to see the opportunities for technology to enable the business and to inspire and facilitate innovation across the technology/business interface.

Reducing complexity: Complexity is one of the emerging digital characteristics. What’s changed is complexity, every decision is nuanced and informed by all of these factors. More often, the simple decisions are not quite so simple anymore; and more frequently, a long-range strategy feels more like wishful thinking than a plan likely to reach fruition. Unfortunately for CIOs, they are required to consider and are often anchored down with legacy systems that must be supported (and considered in decision making) when moving forward toward new technological innovations. Technically, the complexity of aggregate layers of every internal system is a burden that often causes conflict; and the CIO manages that complexity, whether he/she, built it or it was built by someone else. Break down the silo is the other way to reduce complexity. In the spirit of no silos, there are no defined department "areas." An IT person sits next to a marketing person who sits next to a finance person etc. Everyone is encouraged to be in everyone else's business, ask questions, find out what the person next to you is doing, sit in their meetings, and even have "walk a mile in their shoes" periods where people actually understand others job with empathy.

Risk intelligence: You have to be proactive in all through areas in order to be successful as the business strategist and governance champion in your company, and well balance the standardization and creativity, agility and risk management. The CIO needs to be in tune with the business in order to understand what the desired outcomes are for the business, which risks needs to be managed, and what opportunity can be captured. Technology is a powerful tool when applied strategically to compete in any market. The CIO is in a very difficult place trying to enable technology, manage risk and be valuable to everyone including the customer.

Cost optimization: The Struggle is real - supporting legacy platforms (both hardware and software) can easily consume a large portion of any customer's IT budget; the latest digital technology also provides opportunities for businesses to optimize cost, from CapEx to OpEx, doing more with less, and apply the technology tools to improve business efficiency. On the other hand, when IT is pigeonholed as a Cost Center rather than being regarded as an asset and as a business enablement team, it will damage its reputation and hurt the business’s long-term goals. Either the technology evolves, the cost curve is bent, the CIO must understand the core business in order to be a good team member and help the organization succeed via building differentiate business capability and optimizing cost accordingly.

Everyone has a flavor on how they want to view the role and focus of a CIO role in three distinct areas: Operator, Guardian, and Innovator. And the success of the role is also directly related to the size and maturity of the organization. Small organizations saddle the role with too many responsibilities to allow for the necessarily elevated presence while larger organizations may marginalize the role by creating other C-Level positions that compete for budget and influence. Ultimately, as the rising leadership role, CIOs must be business strategists, leaders of change and champions for evolution within their organizations.


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