CIOs See Their Jobs Change As The Business Also Changes

What CIOs are being asked to do is starting to change
What CIOs are being asked to do is starting to change
Image Credit: Georgie Pauwels

I think that we can all agree that things change. As CIOs a key part of our job is both adapting to change and helping our company adapt to change. However, right now there are changes that are going on that are outside of our control. Our very company is changing under our feet and we need to be ready for the new company that is getting ready to appear. The role of the CIO is still going to be important; however, how the company needs us may be what is going to change.

Even More Change Comes To The World Of CIOs

CIOs say their role is starting to evolve, as cloud computing and other innovations make it easier for business leaders to deploy technology beyond the control of the IT department. The role of CIO is in flux right now. While enterprise technology’s impact on the survival of the business has only accelerated, the question now is who is in charge of that. I think that we can all agree that sometimes it is the CIO, and sometimes it’s not. In response to these changes, many CIOs are leaving software and other enterprise technology decisions to the finance, marketing, sales and other departments, and starting to turn their attention to core business strategies.

This move to let individual business units run their own IT shop – a shift CIOs have resisted for years, citing integration and security issues – comes as cloud computing, data analytics, automation and other capabilities have started to become critical functions at companies. Although most CIOs continue to oversee the data governance, compliance and other higher-level IT functions, when it comes to day-to-day business apps they are more likely to be seen as advisers to the individual departments. In a survey last year of 990 IT leaders and 350 line-of-business workers nearly 60% of workers outside of IT described their company’s CIO as a “strategic advisor who identifies business opportunities and makes recommendations.” Eighty-six percent of the same respondents said groups or functions outside of IT now come with their own technology budgets.

The push to transform their IT operations has revealed that companies who are organized around a silo technology in their IT departments will be quickly outrun by their competitors. The proliferation of digital technology means CIOs can no longer simply be the owner-operator of every system in the enterprise anymore. Technology leaders who cling to an older mind-set are going to be in for a struggle. Many of the responsibilities a CIO used to have over enterprise technology are flattening out across the company. Going forward the focus is now on ensuring that systems are integrated, secure and aligned with the company’s long-term business strategy. I think that we can all agree with this approach.

CIOs Prepare To Deal With Change

One approach that CIOs have been taking is to launch initiatives to create dedicated tech teams in every department. The teams can consist of both technology and business experts. At many companies, the business segments aren’t waiting for the CIO to bulk up on tech talent. An average of 41% of today’s total global corporate workforce is made up of “business technologists” – employees hired into departments outside of IT to build both tech tools and other digital capabilities. The average percentage of these employees within organizations varies by industry, from 28% in the public sector, to a high of 55% in the energy sector.

Many tech vendors have started pitching cloud-based and low-code software tools, designed to be ready-made or easily customized, directly to business segments. Their goal is to bypass traditional IT gatekeepers. This is a trend that accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. The sheer amount of technology options in today’s business ecosystem necessitates new decision processes. IT departments are starting to engage at a much deeper level with business units, compared with just a few years ago. CIOs understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach; however, the goal should be for business-line departments to prioritize their unique objectives and leave it to the IT department to provide a framework to help them make technology decisions that help achieve those objectives.

The IT department should be looking to help the individual departments with the realization of their strategic goals. The job of the IT department today is to set and drive the company’s overall technology strategy. Within that framework, which can include measures to address security, resiliency and stability, among other issues, the business-unit tech leaders can then create and maintain their own department level IT road maps. Having dedicated technology teams in each of a company’s business segments gives IT leaders a unique position to view the company’s entire enterprise-technology ecosystem. Every segment’s unique decision on tech investing can then get integrated with the company’s broader business strategy.

What All Of This Means For You

If there is one constant, it’s that things change. CIOs have always tried to be on top of all of the changes that are constantly happening in the world of technology. However, all of sudden there is a new type of change that is going on. How their company chooses to make use of not only the CIO but the IT department also is undergoing a significant change. CIOs have to realize that the change is happening and we need to develop a strategy for dealing with it.

The arrival of cloud computing has made it easier for the leaders of different departments within the company to set up their own IT operations. This is causing the role of the CIO to start to change. CIOs will continue to oversee the higher level IT functions. They will evolve into advisors for the individual departments. CIOs can’t own every system any more. Dedicated tech teams have been created to help individual departments. Products have also evolved into no code or low code offering to help non-tech departments. Going forward the goal is to have the individual departments operate within the IT strategic framework.

CIOs are used to change. Perhaps they are not used to as much change as they are currently experiencing, but we’ve all been here before. As many of the tasks that we used to do now move to being done by individual departments, we can hope that that frees us up. If so, then perhaps we can spend more time trying to understand the changes that are coming our way. Working together with each department in the company we can create a new company vision for how IT can help the company to move forward and be successful.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
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