WHAT DOES THE WORLD LOOK LIKE AFTER CORONA? THE CIO’S WILL BE ASKED TO LEAD ENTERPRISE STRATEGY IN THIS NEW WORLD. SO WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE? AND WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP?
We are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has caused a sudden change to our daily lives and our workplace. There has been a rapid shift to remote working, with businesses struggling to quickly adapt to a new working reality. Everything from infrastructure to supply chains to critical business functions are being pushed to their limits, and the thing that is central to enabling business continuity amid the chaos is technology.
Organizations are realizing that business is intrinsically linked to technology, whether it is using technology to enable customer success, driving revenue and using automation to create efficiencies or, as with our current crisis, understanding technology risk and driving operational efficiency. And, the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) has become central to this, ensuring that technology can support critical business functions and future plans.
The evolving role of the CIO is no new thing, of course, and is something that has been front of mind for me for some time. But, everything I read points to the current global pandemic putting this evolution on the fast track:
- CIOs have a unique set of capabilities that gives them a view from strategy to operations and from the front office to back office.
- CIOs are becoming enablers and innovators, driving the adoption of technology across the business and assessing risk versus return on investment.
- CIOs are communicating with their board of directors more frequently, becoming a vital interface between the board and other technology-related functions.
- More boards are seeking to appoint directors with technology acumen, as digitally savvy boards result in higher profitability and revenue growth.
- As COVID-19 has forced organizations to change overnight, relying on technology to sustain their business, the importance and responsibility of the CIO role has been further exposed.
- During the global pandemic, CIOs across the globe are demonstrating their ability to participate and contribute value beyond their functional area.
- Once the pandemic comes to an end, CIOs will play an active part in building a solution that enables future growth, evaluating shortcomings and opportunities that have been missed, and technology upgrades and transformations that need to be implemented.
- Placing CIO as directors is the most effective way to identify the most-pressing technology priorities, establish the importance of technology functions and challenge plans for the technological backbone of every successful enterprise in today’s world.
As CIOs, we need to continue to tear down old perceptions, with the pandemic as a stepping stone to what the role could and should become. The role of the CIO post-COVID-19 will no longer be solely a cost reduction function; it will be a driver for revenue growth and business value. CIOs will forge a permanent place in the boardroom, helping to use technologies to create operational efficiency and competitive advantage, addressing threats and risks of information security and using their experience to provide invaluable input in the opportunities of cloud computing, digitization, and data.
The Evolution of the CIO Role
Traditionally CIOs and their respective departments have been known as order takers and service providers, firmly planted in the back office. The interaction between IT and the business has often been an afterthought. However, advanced technology driving the fourth industrial revolution is changing all of that. With technology holding the potential to disrupt traditional business operations across all industries, and quickly, organizations are having to up their game.
The fact of the matter is that CIOs hold a unique set of capabilities that give them a view from strategy to operations and from the front office to back office. As well as obviously being extremely digitally and technology savvy, CIOs bring:
- A deep and broad understanding of their companies and industries.
- An ability to build business cases and justify budgets.
- A team-oriented nature with the ability to build strong relationships with executives.
- An aptitude for strategy and vision, seeing the bigger picture
- An understanding of how to shape revenue and competitive advantage.
- Awareness of corporate governance
- A strong understanding of cybersecurity risk
- An ability to problem solve, analyze and strategies for better solutions.
Ultimately, CIOs are evolving to be far more than commodities. IDG’s 2019 State of CIO Survey revealed that 35 percent of CIOs are driving business innovation, 23 percent are developing and refining business strategy, and 62 percent are responsible for revenue-generating initiatives. CIOs are becoming enablers and innovators, driving the adoption of technology across the business and assessing risk versus return on investment.
With such extensive capabilities, especially amidst a global pandemic that is relying heavily upon technology, the role has to evolve further. The CIO offers a set of skills that is deeper and broader than that of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Conversations are no longer purely about cyber risk; they are about technology-enabled digital transformation and innovation. Who else is better placed to provide an active and engaged view of the technology-driven future than our CIOs?
Why CIOs Make Great Board Directors
As I’ve touched on, the CIO hasn’t historically had a seat at the board room table. Interactions between CIOs and management are often sporadic, happening only every quarter at best. Deloitte’s 2018 Global CIO Survey, demonstrated this, with only 18 percent of the technology budget is spent on developing business capabilities. However, with the rapid advancement of technology and changing business landscape; this has begun to change.
As disruptive technologies threaten to make any business in any industry obsolete, every board at every company could benefit from the capabilities of a CIO. And, on that basis, CIOs should have their sights firmly set on the corporate boardroom. There is a unique opportunity for CIOs to step up, take a seat at the table and drive companies to adapt and adopt digital transformation. MIT research indicates that having a digitally savvy corporate board results in 17% higher profitability and 38% faster revenue growth, suggesting that at least three digitally savvy directors were needed to give the board the edge.
Surprisingly, even though technology is at the core of business today, research by CIO UK reported that only 31% of Fortune 100 boards have a director who is a CIO and this is considerably higher than other companies. The only way to bring our corporate boards up to speed is to recruit digitally savvy directors. And so, more boards are seeking to appoint directors with technology acumen. The IDG’s 2019 Survey reported that 78% of CIOs are now communicating with their board of directors, up from 67% the year before. The role is becoming an interface between the board and other technology-related functions, playing a pivotal part in education and upskilling.
The Acceleration of Change due to COVID-19
Very few companies are immune to the influence of technology-driven disruption or innovation, and the COVID-19 pandemic has proven this on a colossal scale. Companies have been forced to suddenly adapt to new ways of working, adopting new technologies at a faster pace than ever before.
During the pandemic, boards across the globe have had to lean on their CIOs to help them maintain their businesses. Almost overnight, the CIO has become fundamental in making sure organizations can function through pandemic containment measures. Businesses are having to scale digital channels to deal with demand, assess cloud capabilities and review dependence on specific suppliers. And the CIO is playing a vital part in this along with assessing how the business will deal with the increased risk of cyberattacks and IT incidents as a result of the new ways of working.
The New Role of the CIO
The new role of the CIO is being formed as we speak, as CIOs across the globe step up to the current challenges and become a key player in strategic decision-making. And, once the pandemic comes to an end, CIOs will play an active part in building a solution that enables future growth. There will no doubt be shortcomings and opportunities that have been missed, and technology upgrades and transformations that need to be implemented.
The COVID-19 pandemic has enabled CIOs to demonstrate their ability to participate and contribute value beyond their functional area, with an understanding of people, technology and business strategy. And, while having a CIO director can’t eliminate unforeseen challenges or technology-related risk, it is the most effective way to identify the most-pressing technology priorities, establish the importance of technology functions and challenge plans for the technological backbone of every successful enterprise in today’s world.
All opinions & expressions are solely those of the author and not those of any other individual, institution or business.