As game-changing technologies transform every business process, they also give us the ability to create new products and services that were impossible just a few years ago. Therefore, the future role of CIO is shifting from protecting and defending the status quo to embracing and extending new innovative capabilities. The experience which IT has gained from technological innovation can be leveraged into the business operating model. The new role will include facilitating collaboration, both internally and across enterprises; managing the rapidly changing area of business and technological security; and tackling the challenges of information and knowledge within the organization. CIOs already act as vital catalysts for innovation. As business innovation continues to increase in importance, this part of their role can only continue to grow.
In a survey by Deloitte, CIO respondents foresee spending less time on functional duties—7% compared to 20% currently to the next three- to five-year horizon. An indication that improvements in automation and a growing dexterity with the bi-modal role will afford CIOs the opportunity to concentrate more fully on higher-value, high visibility activities. From a technology standpoint, IT leaders ranked big data/business analytics (33%), cloud computing (28%), security/risk management (23%), and enterprise applications (23%) as top investment drivers. All of those were of more significance for enterprise companies compared to SMBs, however, application development ranked much higher on the list for SMBs (21%) compared to enterprise companies (17%). To improve their working relationship, CIOs are helping line of business prioritize tech projects (56%), immersing themselves in the business (40%), and honing in on agile development techniques to deliver projects faster (29%).
Areas of investment focus and increased spending include “bring your own device” (BYOD) and the use of cloud services, both areas of natural discomfort for the traditional CIO as they relinquish some control. BYOD investment should happen to deal with the unstoppable trend of employees using their own devices, while cloud investment is now a common strategy for “doing more with less”. Collaboration and mobility also score highly, unsurprising in a connected world where geographically-distributed workforce increasingly need efficiency in their means of communication, and remote working is the norm.
The alignment of business and IT strategies will evolve into the enabling of innovative thinking and practices across the whole organisation. The CIO of the future will add the role of Chief Innovation Officer to his portfolio. The future role of CIO plays an even more important part in an organisation:
- where hierarchies are less important than the network of interdependent projects and programmes
- where the business is slimmed down to its basics and outsources whatever peripheral functions it possibly can
- Where the aim is to squeeze out variable costs in favor of fixed and predictable budgeting.
Within that organisation, the CIO’s destination is leadership. The future role of the CIO in the future is and indispensable one than exists today. Dealing with the increase in power and influence within the organisation, and the way it affects other Senior Managers and colleagues, will require management and communication skills of the highest order. Managing and executing IT will remain important. Most CIOs already have experience of the complexities and challenges of handling outsourcing and partnership relationships beyond their own organisations. Such relationship management and partner management skills will be crucial in the business of the future.
The future role of CIO has to be of the communicator, whether explaining technology in the old days to people who didn’t understand or value it, or alerting colleagues to the business possibilities today. In the world that’s coming, with the CIO helping to shape business strategies and drive innovation across the organization, such skills will be still more important.
They will certainly still need a well-rooted technology skill-set, but in addition, the expanding and evolving role will demand business skills of the highest order. CIOs will need a complete understanding of the business processes as the role expands to include the procurement and management of processes and the facilitation of innovation. They will also need highly developed negotiating skills to support contracting with service providers.
The key traits1 of the CIO can be summarized as follows:
- Ability to view the business holistically, across functional, unit, and regional boundaries
- Process orientation and comfort with organizational design
- Information analytics knowledge; ability to help companies sort through and use information
- Expertise in investment allocation and using ROI to make decisions about future IT expenditures
- The technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals