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How CIOs can upskill to become a more effective leader

How CIOs can upskill to become a more effective leader

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How CIOs can upskill to become a more effective leader

A CIO’s role has drastically changed due to the part technology plays in the digitisation of businesses today. Technology is now so intertwined with wider business goals and objectives that a shift in focus from traditional technology management to responsibilities that drive the business forward is required from the position. Neil How, Co-Founder and Co-CEO at ten80 Group, explains how CIOs can upskill to become more effective leaders.

It’s no longer enough for CIOs to manage how, when, why and where information is disseminated throughout the organisation. They now need to upskill to think like a business leader as any CEO or managing director would.

According to Gartner, 100% of IT roles in 2020 will require an intermediate level of proficiency in business acumen in order to drive business effectiveness, value creation and growth.

This means having an in-depth understanding of a business and its objectives, interacting with company visionaries and driving a smart digital agenda. While technology will always be the foundation of any digital strategy, CIOs need to put the goals of the business at the top of their agenda.

But in order to achieve a business-focused mindset, CIOs will need to pivot and start helping the organisation to find a competitive advantage – especially with the continuous threat from challenger brands and start-ups entering the market.

This requires that the CIO of the future develops a wider skill set that extends further than just running successful IT operations – they need to drive revenue and contribute to bottom-line goals and company growth.

Here are the four key areas where a CIO needs to upskill to become a more effective leader – combining technology and business leadership to drive strategic corporate growth plans and increase market opportunities.

Build strategic partnerships

While it might seem obvious that building strategic partnerships across the business is essential for all roles, for a CIO in particular, it is especially important in order to help generate business value from key digital initiatives. By partnering and collaborating with C-level executives, CIOs will be able to gain visibility into different departments across the business and in turn, get the buy-in needed to digitise business efforts.

CIOs should then map their digital strategy based on what these leaders are aiming to achieve and take a collaborative approach to adapting and improving the strategy to continuously meet the business’ requirements.

The result should be showing how technology can improve these leaders’ efforts in a way that will provide demonstrable benefits – from major savings and competitive advantages to new revenue opportunities.

Achieve a business and technical mindset

For many CIOs their view has been internally focused – operating more as a support function and advising employees and company stakeholders on what technology will make them more productive. But as technology continues to play a more vital role in the success of the business, CIOs need to shift from this advisory role when it comes to just infrastructure and tools – guiding Digital Transformation of the entire business.

Although it seems obvious that this increased focus on digitisation sits within the CIO’s domain, many decisions about digital innovation are made outside of the IT department. In fact, according to Altimeter, 34% of CMOs are leading the Digital Transformation, compared to just 19% of CIOs.

But CIOs cannot afford to take a backseat and be idle participants, especially with technology transforming almost every industry – from automotive, hospitality, healthcare and financial services.

A CIO with business acumen can execute on a digital leadership strategy that will make the business more efficient and create new and profitable digital channels. It’s about reaching a higher level of maturity as a business partner, change agent or transformation leader.

Evangelise and communicate your vision

Good communication is not often synonymous with IT leaders in the same way it is with CEOs. So, in order to drive transformational change, CIOs need to step outside of their traditional comfort zone and evangelise key IT initiatives to the organisation and shift perceptions. Employees can no longer see IT as a support function to a driver of digital innovation, but instead should understand how it will have a positive impact on them as an individual within the business.

The CIO has this power and the ability to create a digital-first culture and frame the narrative around how these initiatives support the wider business goals. This might also require hiring new talent to help spark and drive innovation across the business.

Develop a customer-first mentality

Crucially, CIOs need to take a customer-first approach to the digital business strategy, which means considering how technology is used outside of the organisation too. CIOs have typically supported the efforts of others who interact with customers but it’s critical to learn how to engage directly with them to truly deliver on transformation goals. For example, in the case of taking a traditional offline business online – this change must start with the customer experience in mind.

Every great CIO’s strength lies in their ability to change and adapt. Therefore, the demands of today’s digital landscape won’t be a reinvention but a reaffirmation of their place as a visionary, digital strategist and a key driver of business growth.

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