Over the past few months I have been presenting to executives around the world and within Microsoft about the evolution of the CIO role and its impact on IT. The materials have gone over extremely well and relate to their concerns. I call it the new breed of the CIO. This post is part of a series of posts that are a distillation of that workshop.
The face of today’s CIO has changed dramatically. Once upon a time the CIO was only concerned about the business of IT, from the development process and implementation to the operation of the IT world. What these CIO’s have learned, and some the hard way, is that isn’t enough. This narrow view has gotten IT in a load of trouble over the years.
There are a number of pressures that are forcing this change. First, there are top down business expectations from business leaders. They expect a more mature IT organization, quicker time to market on solutions and higher business value solutions. Second, disruptive technology advancements such as cloud, social, big data and mobility are opening up new possibilities for the business. One of which is a new world of work that breaks down the traditional barriers of productivity that enables a deeper understanding of the enterprise and its customers.
Reacting to these pressures is often difficult for organizations that are equipped both mentally and physically for the traditional way of IT. This new wave of business empowerment and technology innovation changes the traditional game quite a bit.
As an analogy, I think of it from a historical perspective. Remember in the early days of the United States especially in wars like the French and Indian War the British came to the battle in very formal bright uniforms, marching in lines and extreme formality in the engagement of war. The challenge here is that the system they were fighting within had fundamentally changed. They were not in Europe where this style was respected and adhered to but rather in a system where agility, surprise attacks and camouflage was the name of the game. IT is in a similar place right now, we are moving from the old world to the new world. The system has changed and we must adapt or face a defeat.
This has manifested itself in many ways, the first being how consumers leverage our products and services. In 2009, the Better Business Bureau in Vancouver Canada listed Computers and Technology as the number one complaint across all areas.
As shown in the report, computer software and services are worse than those pesky car salesmen hunting you down on their lots. We not only see this from our consumer base but also from within our four walls. It is easier to not look at but there are systemic issues with the business of IT as it is today. As an example, the Standish Group released a report stating that 50% of all technology Initiatives are a waste of money. So what is the CIO to do? Stick with the status quo or make a change? It’s time for a change in how IT is operated.
It used to be that aligning IT with the Business was strategically in vogue for CIOs. And it still is. However there is a fundamental shift elevating the modern role of the CIO to that of not only doing the business of IT, but also transforming and innovating along the way. With 54% of mid-market CIOs viewing IT as the critical enabler of business and organizational vision, CEOs are now looking to the CIO as the trusted enabler, the mainspring for IT solutions that meet the demands of the business, in real-time.
The traditional lens of the CIO focuses on providing technology platforms that “allow” the business to function while aligning IT priorities with business priorities, reducing solution cost and ensuring proper controls are in place. This is the CIO as Optimizer, immersed and concerned with driving internal IT process, efficiency and responsiveness, keeping pace with the needs of the business.
Today however brings a new set of business pressures that stares the CIO as Optimizer squarely in the eye and asks the question: “How are you helping the business adapt and cope with accelerating changes in market conditions and technology disruptors?” The answer lies within the new-fashioned role of the Transformative CIO.
The 2010 State of the CIO Survey provided by CIO magazine highlighted that nearly nine out of 10 (89 percent) anticipate assuming some additional area of non-IT leadership responsibility three to five years from now, compared to 61 percent who are currently responsible in a leadership capacity for one or more non-IT areas of the business. Security (55 percent), strategy (49 percent), and risk management (41 percent) are most frequently cited by IT leaders as areas they expect to assume leadership responsibility for in the longer term.
The Transformative CIO will help in this fashion by striving to partner with the Business, truly advancing the business relationship beyond pacing alignment. He becomes an expert of industry solutions; understanding, rationalizing and recommending strategies that meet the ever-changing demands of the Business. And as council and advisor to the CEO, he empathizes and takes action on his concerns.
As CIOs gain a foothold with the Business thought process, maturing strategic business value through the IT lens means continuing to find new ways of delivering value, service and cost containment. Enter the CIO as Innovator. He sees that in order to support business growth, he must be out ahead of the game solving real strategic business problems through innovation.
The new CIO also provides clarity of IT utility by understanding how competition can affect the company and by making strategic big bets on emerging technologies that are directly in line with business goals. He truly believes in a business first organization. In fact, fully 70% of the CIOs surveyed in the 2010 State of the CIO report said long-term strategic thinking and planning will be most critically needed in the coming year.
CIOs are starting to realize this in a substantial way. CIOs are actively moving their focus to not only the transformational areas in partnership with the business but also in an innovative role as well. The 2010 State of the CIO Survey also includes an interesting point that 54% of CIO’s will focus their time and energy on driving business innovation. That is a substantial amount of time for any role, especially the CIO. This will completely change the tone of the IT organization.
The modern CIO is one who not only understands the mechanical aspects of IT but also harmonizes the elements of IT culture, business maturity and industry innovation. And by having a seat at the business decision table, embracing enterprise architecture and running IT as a utility, he or she can incubate these elements in to a set of enablers the business can count on.
The pressure to deliver beyond the traditional role of the CIO is evolving in to a key asset for CEOs. A blend of CIO as Optimizer, Transformer and Innovator provides a powerful profile mix that amidst the constant of change will emerge a stronger and more service-focused business partnership with IT. After all, without IT there is no Business. Or is it the other way around?