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The new role of the CIO: business transformation leader

The new role of the CIO: business transformation leader

Article by: Alvina Antar, CIO at Zuora

Recent technological advancements in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) have ushered in what many commentators are dubbing the Fourth Industrial revolution. In combination with the integration of millennials and generations X and Y into today’s workforce, this has created a unique global business landscape like never before.

Consequently, businesses have been forced to rapidly adjust their best practices to align with the acceleration of technology adoption and the need to digitally transform. In fact, according to a recent report by Gartner, two-thirds of all business leaders claim that keeping pace with digitisation is a prerequisite for success in today’s economy.

That includes managing changing business models, not least the significant shift towards subscription models that we are seeing across a number of industries. Take the media industry as a prime example. The move to a subscription model has been a challenging one for the sector and it is still in the midst of change. Just last week, Google announced that it will invest in a new suite of tools to support the necessary digital transformation of media companies. All of this further strengthens my belief that in the future, business growth will only come from subscriptions. And the role of the CIO will be critical to its success.

The changing role

According to Gartner’s latest CIO Agenda Survey, 95% of CIOs expect their jobs to be significantly reshaped due to digital transformation. We have, therefore, witnessed a significant increase in technology spending being liberated from the CIO’s grasp and allocated to that of other business units.

No longer is the CIO the technology-facing executive of the past. Today’s CIO is more closely aligned with broader company-wide objectives than ever before. Their role has shifted from the ‘manufacturer’ of IT systems to the ‘enabler’ of business transformation, with success no longer measured by the effective construction and deployment of such systems, but instead by the tangible outcomes that these integrated technologies can deliver to a business.

Embracing the new role

On one hand, it remains the case that a CIO must have a deep understanding of their business and its strategy for growth; meaning they must have a strategic vision and the right plan to ensure all systems are able to meet a variety of business needs.

On the other hand, tomorrow’s CIOs will need to surpass what were deemed to be the traditional demands associated with their role. The expectation is that they should possess the traits typical of business leaders – i.e. confidence, flexibility, curiosity, trustworthiness, respect, sensitivity and self-awareness.

Above all, they must break free of their comfort zones and push the boundaries of the role. With new business models, companies and entire economies being cultivated today, seemingly at the drop of a hat, adopting an open-minded approach is vital for the IT function to not only be relevant but essential for organisations across industries.

There has never been a better time for our IT leaders to welcome and benefit from change. Although risk is consistently a key determinant in business decisions, innovation has long been a key determinant of success. CIOs are uniquely positioned to rebrand themselves as individuals – and the role itself – to become nurturers of innovation and brokers of these technologies to meet evolving organisational demands.

Delivering value

Crucially, incumbents of the role must quickly learn to use their new-found freedom to best deploy the technologies that may be outside the understanding of those they lead in the IT department.

Doing this relies on sourcing and developing fresh and promising talent through the ranks. New hires should share in the vision of a successful IT function – i.e. one that works in conjunction with the wider business in a combined bid to achieve its overall goals.

Companies of all shapes and sizes are now attempting to pivot and transform quickly and effectively. With the CIO the only person to have a true understanding of a company’s end-to-end functional and technical blueprint, the pace of change currently being experienced provides them with the perfect platform to spearhead new growth initiatives and overcome challenges.

It’s time for CIOs to transform their knowledge to meaningful business impact.