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01 July 2018

The Role Of CIO Is Transforming: 4 Ways of Staying Relevant

Due to the speed of innovation in digital technology within business, the role of the CIO has seen numerous changes over the last couple of decades. Now, however, it is seeing a total transformation.

While CIOs have generally acted as a kind of service-provider in the past – primarily dealing with the practical elements of ensuring that networks were functional, and creating cost-effective utility [1] – leveraging technology has become fundamental to business strategy, innovation and success.[2] This makes the role of the CIO more important – but also requires that they adapt, step up and lead. Here are four steps to not only survive the change, but to thrive:

1. Understand where CIOs can create value 

There are various trends driving the CIO’s changing role. DevOps allows for rapid organisational transformation using technology; IoT is connecting infrastructure in incredible new ways; while analytics and machine learning, powered by Big Data, are vital to these processes as well as the entire strategy and value-proposition of a business. In each case, information is central: meaning that the CIO is ideally situated to lead their implementation.[3]

Unfortunately, this transition to leadership and strategy is lagging. Only a third of executives are satisfied with their IT functions beyond managing infrastructure and basic services, and non-IT executives often indicate strikingly different priorities from their IT counterparts – reflecting a lack of necessary organisational changes. However, when CIOs are highly involved in enterprise-wide strategy, not only is IT effectiveness higher, but it also facilitates crucial business activities such as new-market entry and innovative product creation.[4] It is here where CIOs can maximise value-creation.

2. Set the company’s technology vision

To step up, CIOs should rewrite their job description, and change their role within the organisation. With digital technology not only central to the functioning but also the strategy of a business, CIOs need to move from auxiliary service-providers to leaders. This necessitates creating a direct relationship with the CEO – building a rapport that ensures that the implementation of technology aligns with the business’s aspirations.[5]

With this relationship in place, it’s time to lead the charge, and set out a technology vision that will nurture growth and innovation within the company. Some vital areas to focus on include facilitating customer engagement with omnichannel design, designing and overseeing analytics, and centralising and automating core business functions.[6] Learn more about business process automation. Priorities will differ in each business, and making strategic choices will require that CIOs develop new business-skills and knowledge to rise to the challenge.[7]

3. Create a platform to drive the vision forward

Realising this vision will require a platform – the first facet of which is organisational. Two major difficulties that IT faces right now are organisational culture and recruitment of talent. These are areas where CIO involvement can be hugely beneficial and are a great place to prove leadership capabilities. In companies whose CIOs have yet to take on leadership roles, only 10% have achieved effective management of IT’s organisational health and culture – in those who have, this figure is 50%. Further, improved culture and morale are vital to recruiting new talent [8] – so this is an ideal starting point for CIOs to make their mark on leading organisation.


4. Integrate technology systems and enable agility

The other facet of this platform is technological. With the wide variety of technology being used, and need for rapid innovation and growth, setting up systems to enable high levels of agility and ease of integration is vital. With technology increasingly becoming inexorable from every element of business, there is also a growing need for multiple technology-leadership roles. Rather than manage everything themselves, CIOs should play the role of central architect – this requires freeing up time for talented members of the IT team to play more strategic roles.[9]

Low-code technology is an ideal tool for setting up a system capable of meeting these demands. Since low-code platforms automate many aspects of development that would previously have been coded manually, and are intuitive to use, development is accelerated, and IT-employees can work with others in the business to quickly transform ideas into actions. Moreover, low-code platforms can easily be integrated with legacy systems, as well as adapted later to meet changing needs and to manage emerging tech.[10] In combination, this enables a highly agile business, and empowers talented employees to focus on dynamic use of technology to drive innovation without the barriers of slow development.


So, for CIOs to stay in the game it is necessary for them to understand how the recent wave of technology innovations affect the needs of the company and ensure their skills and abilities mean they are still the best person for the role. With emerging technologies come new skill-sets, and new skill-sets mean that those who don’t keep abreast with innovation will soon be outed by their savvier counterparts.