CIOs Bring their Seats Closer to the Table

Tejinderpal Singh Miglani, CEO, Incedo Inc. | Thursday, 23 June 2016, 12:46 IST

As the thin line between business and technology within an enterprise fades, CIOs are strategists first, and technologists second. 

For a long time, IT decision makers grumbled about challenges they faced in getting a go-signal from their management while making IT investments. CFOs and CEOs questioned them about ROI, budgets, time cycles and impact of the investment on their business. This was when IT was looked at merely as a support function. 

However, times have changed. The business side of an organisation is not only open to implementing technology, but is actively planning its own IT strategies. The management team has an overall view of the enterprise architecture, how the IT strategy fits in, and the impact it is bound to create. Many business leaders consider IT leaders critical to the success of their business and want CIOs to engage in business strategy discussions. 

The amalgam of business and IT

Earlier, the CIO’s sole responsibility was to ensure that all the systems are in place and run smoothly. IT and business were considered two separate functions which required distinct skills and people. Eventually, with ease of access to technology, employees started using their personal gadgets at workplaces. It created a revolution in the IT department as well as the entire organization’s approach towards choosing and implementing technology for business. Organizations which use new technologies as an enabler are the ones going ahead, regardless of how small or large the enterprise is. 

Senior business managers are increasingly getting involved in making key IT decisions and are taking responsibility for the organizational and business process changes in the system. The line between business and technology roles is getting blurry and the ‘silo-syndrome’ at workplaces does not work anymore. These days, business owners as well as CEOs, CMOs, CFOs and COOs are highly aware of the impact IT decisions create on their business outcome, while CIOs and CTOs are getting increasingly involved in critical business decisions. Consecutively, organizational leaders are expected to think as both - a tech person as well as a business person.

The Evolving CIO

As businesses get more complex, digital and information-centric, the CIO’s role has become central to a business' critical operations, including generating revenue. IT executives are still the right people to make decisions about the technical expertise, technology standards and design. However, new-age CIOs understand that they are strategists first and technologists second. This implies their responsibilities are evolving as they get involved in business and strategy. Additionally, they are required to have commercial skills and vision. The time is just right to place CIOs in their rightful spot as strategic leaders within the organization’s C-suite. With the new opportunities in a digital era, they have an excellent opportunity to partner with their CEOs to drive business growth. 

Here are a few ways in which a CIO can evolve into a valuable contributor and handle business strategies better: 

  1. Say Hello to Chaos

The concept of BYOD is here to stay. Allow and encourage business units to choose any application which are required to get their job done. The level of functionality and comfort available with home devices is putting pressure on the CIO to deliver a more fluent, functional and user friendly experience to users in a corporate environment. CIOs can remain relevant by getting involved in consumption of shadow IT within their businesses and by making sure they are being used effectively. A CIO can welcome the cultural evolution by understanding and addressing the changing behaviors of employees. 

  1. Take the Role of a Strategist

Understand that a CIO’s role has gone way beyond support. They’re dealing with issues which can dramatically change an organization. IT decision makers are innovating, figuring out new ways to do business and taking risks to execute changes in non-IT fields like marketing and sales. They anticipate and invent tech-enabled changes which require them to know the business well. CIOs are also elevating their role by turning their attention to customers. The change in their role is evident as CIOs are now seen as business managers. 

  1. Increase Collaboration Between Business and IT

Today, evangelists for tech driven innovation can be found in all parts of the organization, not necessarily only in IT. A successful digital business involves leadership, market insights and technology platforms. CIOs must weave collaboration between different functions. CIOs can use technology to extend the reach of the business to a broader ecosystem of partners. This requires a business vision that is shared by a cross-functional team. Such collaboration will also help to generate overall growth for the company.

  1. Bring Innovation into Business processes

For decades, CIOs have used technology to create an efficient organization. With their expertise, they can play a great catalyst for innovation and an influencer of change all areas of business. Like IT innovation, which calls for using technology in new ways to create a more efficient organization, business innovation should enable the achievement of goals across the entire organization, with sights set on accomplishing core business aims and initiatives. A contributing factor is the increasing number of IT experts deployed in business and corporate functions, such as finance, marketing, HR and sales.

CIOs no longer sit on the sideline. They are actively helping the C-suite and its board to plan the architecture for a vigorous digital transformation. If CIOs fails to lead here, they will face the pain of integration challenges at a later stage on a much higher scale.

That said, the IT and other departments must consult with each other before making choices which can impact on a company’s business strategy. With this transformation, there comes a need for deeper knowledge and understanding of new processes and systems driving a business. With the digital era, it’s time for CIOs to stretch their managerial skills between being a tech head and a valuable contributor to the business.

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