Is now the most exciting time to be a CIO?
I guess the answer to that depends on the individual and the organisation(s) that they are working with.
The reason I ask is because, while the rest of the C suite see their roles evolving steadily, I believe that the role of a CIO evolves at a much faster pace.
A CIO I met recently described her role in three simple tasks:
- To keep the Board out of Jail
- To save the company money
- To earn the company money
I thought this was a brilliant way to simplify what can be a complex agenda for CIOs today. A focus on Risk and Security, ensuring the company is operating cost effectively, and overseeing how technology can enable the business to grow and generate more revenue - I believe this summarises the CIO role perfectly.
CIOs that I speak to are nowadays firmly “business first and IT second”. Gone are the days of an internally focused IT head or a role that, while close to the business, is purposely not too close. As a CIO, typically you now have a seat at the top table. You are a business leader. The excitement comes from the fact that nearly all major business transformations, at least in some way, are enabled by technology. Every FTSE250 or Fortune500 CIO that I know views their role as strategic to enabling organisational change and impacting the top line. Whereas change used to be stop start, the pace of change has increased and change is now a constant. This has to be exciting for the modern day CIO.
However, having moved on from leading the Internal Service provision, the modern day CIO now faces the often over-used term of Digital. CIOs are now tasked with enabling the future success of the organisation in an ever changing, disrupted and technology-driven economic world.
There is an ongoing and much publicised debate about Digital and far better qualified people than I to debate it. My view is based on constant interaction with CIOs, many of whom have CDOs working for them. Gartner friends of mine believe that the CDO will replace the role of CIO by 2020. As the recently published Digital To The Core (Raskino & Waller) explains, many Businesses do not yet understand Digital. As an Interim Provider, I constantly see large differences in executive level views of what digital means to their business. The 2015 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey shows that not only do CIOs expect and aspire to a leading role in digitalization, their CEOs expect them to step up and lead the digital charge during this critical transition period.
So, is this a concern for CIOs? Is the challenge of their future really an unknown quantity? Do CIOs need to continually evolve their own capabilities and skillsets to avoid losing ground on their peers that work for companies which are embracing Digital? A recent PWC survey stated that 68% of digital spending comes from budgets outside of IT department’s budget, a significant increase from 47% the prior year. Will this trend mean that CIOs themselves move back to the back office? Or, as businesses become more and more technology driven, will we see CIOs buck the trend and take COO or even CEO roles?
My overriding feeling is that, more than ever, the CIO of today requires the support and sponsorship of their CEO and CxO peers.
In short, is this the most exciting or worrying time to be a CIO?