CIOs Connection Between Technology and Business Strategy
Chief information officer (CIO) is considered an agent of change. Technology transformation is no longer just about moving to the cloud or embracing new IT solutions, but also involves infusing technology into every strategy discussion and process throughout an organization.
The 2022 State of the CIO research executive summary names CIOs “the surprise pandemic hero and the force behind digital transformation.” The survey reveals 85% of IT leader respondents devoted time to digital transformation – 40% for modernizing infrastructure and applications, 38% for aligning IT initiatives and business goals, and 30% for cultivating the partnership between IT and the overall business.
In early 2020, McKinsey suggested that as technology’s importance rises during digital transformation, success of a company hinges on the ability of a CIO to move the needle from a functional leader to a business leader.
How the CIO role has transformed into one of the most important roles in a business?
1. Evolving Beyond Traditional IT
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 crisis elevated the role of the modern-day CIO. In 2018, a Deloitte Global CIO survey revealed fewer than 10% of CIOs gained company-wide support to lead digital transformation. Further, 55% of CIOs surveyed functioned as trusted operators focusing on IT efficiency, reliability and cost containment – rather than business transformation.
Enter a global pandemic and an organization-wide change of mentality. As digital transformation catapulted to the forefront, the Office of the CIO has led the charge.
CIO Responsibility: The CIO’s responsibilities have been transitioning to a strategic role for the past few years. Although CIOs have been historically responsible for deploying, managing, and maintaining organization-wide IT systems, their organizations now understand that digital innovation is key to survival and success. Because of this, organizations are looking to CIOs to ensure their digital and business strategies must align.
For example, when I started in my current role in 2019, I was tapped to align priorities between IT and the company’s lines of business. So, I created an objective IT scorecard that reports how IT is performing operationally and financially, including how projects, initiatives, and transformation proposals are progressing. The pandemic only sped up this process, and it proved to be valuable as digital transformation matured from nice-to-have to a business requirement.
2. A Star is Born
As companies adopt a digital-first corporate culture, it’s the CIO’s time to shine.
CIO Strategy: Today’s CIO does more than strategically manage IT systems and security protocols. The organization’s top IT leader knows the importance their department has in driving business transformation – and keeping its information and data systems secure. This has been especially true since workforces went remote, and IT helped implement technology to keep business moving forward.
CIOs are known for their technical skills and understand, at least on some level, newer technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). CIOs also understand the value these solutions have to an organization’s success as competition and digitization intensify – and security becomes even tougher to manage with workforces in dispersed locations.
As the CIO takes on more responsibilities, other IT leaders often take on roles left behind, so the CIO can focus on driving the business forward.
3. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
An IBM study found a CIO’s prominence comes with corresponding challenges. Technology is continuously increasing its role as a differentiator for companies, and IT leaders who can help innovation cycles with a better understanding of the business and application of technology will have more opportunities available to them.
These leaders often manage hundreds or thousands of applications, sometimes globally. They must ensure core IT services keep daily operations going, while driving innovation at the same time – with budget constraints and a talent shortage.
“The broad scope of responsibilities for these CIOs means they may struggle for resources, contend with conflicting priorities and difficult trade-offs, and may not always be fully recognized for the breadth and reach of their accomplishment,” the IBM report states.
Knowing this, it’s understandable that CIOs are often seen as up-and-coming CEOs. Their role in shaping business models with innovative technology is immense – and is an impetus behind an organization’s ability to digitally transform. For CIOs and IT professionals to strengthen and broaden their skillset, they can join an organization of other IT professionals, volunteer to serve on its board or in another capacity, or seek a mentor who can offer career advice.
The CIO’s job is increasingly complex and important. No longer thought of as just that person who ensures computers are working, the CIO must juggle an array of responsibilities critical for an organization’s success.
For me personally, I embrace the role of CIO and the opportunities it presents for shaping the business landscape in the future. I can only imagine my peers share that same exuberance.
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