There once was a time when the driving force for corporate innovation was comfortably at home with the office of the CIO. It was a time when technology was vast and confusing – and in the corporate world – had newly emerged as a powerful way to drive efficiencies, transform supply chains and bring financial accountability to ever more complex global operations. And at the core of all this was information. Coupling the information of a business with the technology that helped accelerate and make decisions across that business generated untold billions in value for organizations around the world.
But over the last decade, there has been a shift. There has been less emphasis on the strategic role of information technology and a greater focus on technology responsiveness. Less interest in business cases and capital expenditure than rapidly deployed apps and operational improvement. And there has been more of a demand to balance the back office needs with front-of-house expectations.
Today’s CIO has a broad ambit – covering what I call “all things ‘I’”.
Insights – CIOs have always been aware of the potential of big data, but the next generation of analytics platforms are turning our data warehouses into a ready storehouse of insights that can power everything from our marketing campaigns through to changes in our supply chains, partner networks and CSR programs.
Interactive – As investments in digital marketing begin to outstrip more traditional forms of advertising, technology is no longer on the back end of the customer experience, but front and center. CIOs have an increasingly important role supporting front-of-house activities, feeding insights, data and real time information to the marketing and comms teams.
Institution – Core IT capabilities around financials, ERP and supply chain and HR and performance management continue to require the CIO’s commitment. These institutional functions continue to see investment and innovation and form the core SLA between IT and the business.
Infrastructure – We still have the large scale, global infrastructure that needs to be created, managed and implemented. With vast experience in security, governance and compliance, CIOs are well placed as infrastructure custodians – but this is increasingly just an aspect of the CIO role.
Injection – Innovation in all its shapes and sizes often comes with a technology flavor. The CIO is increasingly responsible for not only generating innovation programs but for injecting outside innovation into the business. Look at the way that many companies are tapping startups and startup culture to accelerate a range of programs. This can stretch from SaaS/cloud oriented capabilities that bring business agility and speed to market, to new development methodologies that transform the way that the IT teams are structured and operate. In some cases, startup acquisitions can reinvigorate IT development and support culture – and even transform the way that an entire company functions. But whatever the impact, the ability to artfully inject this style of innovation into an organization is an increasingly important aspect of the CIO role.
But the most important of these is “impact”
Impact – It’s not just about implementing business programs – these days, CIOs must not only help set the business case, but deliver the expected value impact. This involves the use of advanced, real time reporting, analytics and technology – but also includes the business change programs required to bed down the impact into the organization. This requires an ability to partner across the business – something that successful CIOs have been doing for decades.
Rather than disappearing into the back office of the organization, today’s CIOs are called upon to deliver evermore forms of innovation and corporate impact.
In fact, C-suite executives of the 21st Century are revitalizing their roles around technology. I will have more to say on the transitioning role of the Chief Technology Officer in a coming article.
But a question for you – what else are you seeing, expecting or needing from your technology leaders?