The Evolving Role of the CIO

An animated business man standing in the middle of a crossroad thinking which way to go

Technology doesn’t sit still. Neither does its impact on modern businesses as they continually re-evaluate their corporate strategies in line with the efficiencies, capabilities, and cost savings offered by digital transformation.

As you’d expect, these developments have a massive effect on a company’s IT director – the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

However, many non-IT senior leaders still regard the CIO’s role as a tactical one. After all, they have ultimate responsibility for everything from the servers used to IT security.

But considering the importance of digital technology to a business’ ongoing and future success, it’s clear the CIO needs a more prominent strategic role in the company’s long term management and business objectives.

Managing Digital On All Fronts

Traditionally, the role of the CIO was clearcut. They were tasked with purchasing hardware and software and were responsible for ensuring that everything worked.

However, these days the role is at a crossroads in many respects. Not only are CIOs responsible for managing all aspects of IT, their role is as much about managing information, data security, promoting change, and evangelising innovation. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

They’re also responsible for broader digital transformation and for delivering and implementing a roadmap for success.

The pressure’s on and CIOs often have aggressive targets and deadlines to meet. But they’re also contending with a shift in the way that other departments handle their own IT.

As more SaaS products become available, shadow IT begins to emerge as different heads of department bypass the IT team completely to get access to a quicker solution – often in order to stay ahead of their competitors.

The Top 10 Challenges For CIOs

  • Shifting customer demands
  • Greater need for innovation and creativity
  • Increasingly complex policies and procedures
  • The surge of data coming into and being distributed across the organisation
  • Employees need for remote access to company data
  • Duplicated efforts
  • Siloed efforts and a lack of integration; so-called “stranded data”
  • Multiple sources of truth – numerous systems reporting different results: leading to expensive audit fees and possible GDPR/SOX violation
  • Vulnerable data being used and accessed outside of IT’s purview, bypassing data security controls
  • Legal and security risks if non-mainstream applications are used

Bridging The Gap

So what can CIOs do to tackle these problems, streamline how everything works from a digital perspective, and bridge the gap between different departments – who often see IT as a necessary evil?

Well, they need to make a clear distinction between the tactical and strategic aspects of their role for one. In order for CIOs to thrive, they first need a strong backing from their wider IT team – very capable, technical people who can take charge of specification and deployment.

Communication is another core area that CIOs need to focus on. When a digital transformation programme’s in motion, it’s vital that CIOs are seen as both the instigators and managers of change – and that they focus on ways to communicate what’s happening to the rest of the business. This will ultimately help them build closer relationships with others from around the company.

Committed To Success

In many companies the CFO dictates where finance is deployed. As a result, investments are more business-focused rather than IT-driven. To change this, it’s clear that the CIO needs a bigger seat at the boardroom table.

The CIO’s daily job is not only to keep the (computer) lights on. Their role is just as growth-driven as other senior leaders.

Long term success depends on not only having the right IT infrastructure for growth, it also relies on everyone in the business working in-line with best practice – rather than hanging on to legacy software or using their own shadow IT solutions to suit their own ends.

Communication, co-operation, and centralisation are crucial. This all starts with the CIO being more visible and empowered across an organisation. They need to make sure they demonstrate clear leadership and ensure that other c-suite execs realise that CIOs are just as committed to success within the organisation as every other senior leader.

By working closely with MobilityWorks to set specific goals and parameters to help drive savings, flexibility, change, security, and ensure industry compliance, CIOs and their teams have the opportunity to bring more value to the overall success of the company, advising business leaders at a more strategic level.

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