How digital transformation creates a “fundamental shift” in CIO role


CEOs across the globe now view business technology as a key component of their growth strategies. That’s why the role of today’s chief information officer has become increasingly challenging. Mounting pressure to innovate has left many CIOs flat-footed - essentially playing catch­-up trying to integrate new technologies, rather than driving them.

A recent International Data Corporation (IDC) study examined CIO and line of business (LOB) executive perceptions of IT organizations, the changing role of IT leadership from being an traditional operational player to becoming a strategic partner in digital business transformation scenarios.

According to the IDC study, the way in which CIOs view themselves has a direct impact on how they envision their evolving IT leadership job and their relationship with key LOB executives.

Business technology innovation disconnect

Of the 150 CIO survey respondents, 40.7% viewed themselves predominantly as custodians of operational infrastructure, 34 percent viewed themselves as service managers, and just 25.3% viewed themselves as business technology innovation officers.

Conversely, 40.9 percent of LOB respondents view their CIO as an innovation officer, with only 27.5 percent viewing their CIO as operational. IDC believes that this is indicative of the challenge that CIOs face in evolving their role -­­ where having to meet operational requirements is holding some back from reaching the expectations of their business-oriented counterparts.

"CIOs who stay operational will find themselves further marginalized over the next three years. For these executives to stay relevant, they must shift their focus to transformation and innovation and incorporating those innovations into their stable infrastructures. 'Just keeping the lights on' will lead the business to find other sources for technology leadership and innovation," said Mike Jennett , vice president at IDC.

Digital transformation leadership framework

To help CIOs partner with and further educate the business, IDC has introduced the ‘Leading in 3D’ framework that enables CIOs to be directly engaged in every phase of business Digital Transformation – from innovation to hybrid cloud service delivery, with a special focus on IT's ability to manage the transition from one to the other.

IDC predicts that through 2018, two-­thirds of CIOs will have embraced Leading in 3D, which requires them to simultaneously Innovate, Integrate, and Incorporate:

  • Promote business innovation through visionary technology leadership and agile development. Critical to the success of “Leading Innovation” is the ability to work with business partners at the speed of business change.
  • Bridge the business and IT operations transformation with an integration agenda that transitions technology innovation to a stable, secure, and reliable business service for the enterprise. Critical to the success of “Leading Integration” is strategic architecture that serves as the framework for IT platforms.
  • Lead incorporation by selectively streaming new technologies, processes and methodologies to enable the transformation of existing information technology and enterprise processes. Critical to the success of “Leading Incorporation” is achieving the appropriate balance of risk and reward in the change management of IT operations.

According to the IDC study findings, there are interesting correlations between how CIOs view themselves and how they view their main area of focus. Moreover, 67.2% of operational CIOs will be focusing on innovation, while only 26.3% of innovation CIOs will put their focus there.

As a result, IDC believes that operational CIOs are getting the message. To be competitive in this rapidly changing environment of digital transformation, the IT organisation and the CIO must undergo a transition, from a legacy focus on operations and service brokering to a focus on partnership, innovation, and new digitally­-enabled products and services.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement

"Our research notes a fundamental shift in the role of CIOs as seen by themselves and the business, because of the digital transformation. While many CIOs have embraced this change, there’s still a large percentage that will benefit from evaluating their organisations as well as their relationship with their business counterparts as they continue on this journey," concluded, Jennett.

Successful CIOs of the future will be judged by their ability to manage all three of these connected disciplines on a continuous basis while anticipating the next wave of digital transformation. IT leadership will need to forge a lasting collaboration with business partners to drive the transformation engine -­­ from old to new, from unstable to stable, and from experimental to operational.

According to the IDC assessment, the creation of broad IT transformation strategies needs to be coupled with a culture of continuous transition. Employing program management offices, DevOps, and other coordinated IT disciplines will help to speed change and deliver new products and services within existing business and technology processes.

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