Over the past 40 years, the role of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) has changed from being highly technical and focused on the management of IT systems, to one that is more strategic and centred around how IT drives business transformation. Today’s CIOs are required to be visionaries, leaders and tacticians, working with their executive team to drive innovation and create opportunities for revenue generation. According to the 2022 State of the CIO report, 74% of heads of IT say that the CIO role was elevated due to the pandemic and this visibility within the organisation is expected to continue. No longer have CIOs been relegated to the background of an organisation, but are at the forefront of change, leading the charge for new digital initiatives.
Driving digital transformation
To keep up with the competitive pace of technological change, organisations need to be agile and constantly evolving. At the helm of this transformational change is the CIO. 84% of CIOs are more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts. The CIO must act as a key business strategist, working with the executive leadership team to implement initiatives that are increasingly being viewed as critical to business survival. With an estimated 70% of digital transformation projects falling short of their objectives, the CIO needs to work hard to not only provide a clear vision, but to secure buy in from the CEO through to middle management
Key skills defining successful CIOs
With a shift away from a purely operational focus, CIO’s need to be developing and working on an array of non-technical and softer skills to ensure they’re able to meet their changing role requirements.
Close to the top of the list should be a strong focus on people management. This not only extends to employees within a CIO’s internal teams, but to stakeholders across the business, that CIO’s need to inspire and sell into their vision.
CIOs that will thrive and demonstrate their value to an organisation are the ones that constantly innovating and challenging the status quo. With 86% of CIOs saying that their role is becoming more digital and innovation focused, it’s important that CIOs are able to move quickly in response to environmental changes (the Covid-19 pandemic was a prime example of this) and seize new market opportunities.
According to a Gartner CIO study, only 23% of respondents rated their organisation as effective or very effective at business strategy and planning, and only 29% rated their organization as effective or very effective at IT strategy and planning. An effective CIO needs to always keep strategic business goals in mind and take a big picture approach. A CIO should not just focus on the nuts and bolts of implementation, but hone in on the ‘why of technology’.
Challenges facing CIOs
Complex market conditions including uncertainty around hybrid work, inflation and finding and retaining IT talent are just some of the issues currently facing CIOs. How CIOs respond to these challenges will be critical in shaping the role moving forward.
Finding and Retaining IT talent
To combat a global IT skills shortage and win over disenfranchised workers, CIOs must offer staff and future employees a clear career path with opportunities for training and mentorship. Leveraging key technology like a SharePoint intranet can be critical to the running of successful employee driven training and development programs.
Many organisations, off the back of a tumultuous past few years, are still finding their feet when it comes to locking down a viable ‘return to work’ model. With many employees reluctant to return full time to the office, technology has never been more critical in supporting work that can be carried out anywhere and anytime. CIOs need to work closely with key department heads, including HR, to make sure that employees have the tools needed to do their job. Up for consideration is new technology, such as upgraded meeting room facilities, to support a mix of in-office and out-of-office staff.
There’s no doubt that rising inflation is complicating the decision-making process for CIOs. Timing is everything when it comes to signing off a project and CIOs are facing the dilemma of whether to wait and see whether project costs come down. CIOs must weigh up whether holding off on a project can wait, as the business benefit of a new technology solution may outweigh a one time project cost saving. SaaS continues to be an excellent option for ongoing cost management and optimisation.
Where to Next For the CIO
Technology is only likely to become more critical to business success, propelling the CIO further into the spotlight. As organisations turn their attention towards enhancing employee experience, encouraging citizen development and driving overall productivity, the role of non-IT departments in shaping technology transformation will come into play. Hear from one of Australia’s leading CIOs on Leadership in Technology and who’s in control. Ultimately, the future looks bright for the CIO as they continue to be a vital member of the executive leadership team.