Are You A New Age CIO?

With disruptive tech forces changing the enterprise computing dynamics, as a CIO are you reinventing your IT organization to stay relevant in the market place?

Traditional IT is sunsetting as radical new models powered by on demand is completely changing the taxonomy of enterprise IT and consumption patterns. As we all know Digital today is an oft-repeated term and often times we struggle to find one definition that satisfies all. Right now, the air is riddled with alphabet soup of abbreviations – SDX to IoT and whole lot of emerging tech vocabulary. The CIO is clearly caught at the intersection of this disruption. If they miss the emerging tech bus, they face extinction.

While the brick and mortar to online transition happened a few years back, what is happening right now is the beginning of what some companies call as ‘Application Economy’. In an earlier interview with Dataquest, Bask Iyer, CIO of VMware told that ‘every business has the potential to be ‘Uberized’ right now. In a way, it indicates how computing, as we know now is going to undergo a fundamental transition from current Enterprise 2.0 to a completely new demand scenario.

Two things are happening here. One is on the disruption happening on the supply side and the other is on the demand side. The CXOs, on the one hand, are grappling with digital transformation challenges and expect the vendors to address those challenges. On the other hand, the vendors are caught in the nexus of forces and invested in staying relevant to the demand side. 

CIO 2.0

Jim DuBois, Author, Technology Advisor – former Microsoft CIO, once said, “Many CIOs understand they need to change or get left behind. There’s less and less middle ground. Digital transformation is impacting virtually every business, so there’s urgency for IT to be a driver of innovation and change. We’re really seeing how the role of the CIO has shifted, to become more embedded in the strategic leadership of the organization and work more with external customers and partners to provide IT-enabled products and services.”

According to a research from IDC, 93% of organizations have plans to pursue digital business transformation, but 59% of organizations are in stage 2 or 3 (out of 5 stages) of their digital transformation. While they are running digital projects and making progress, they are not making the headway required to achieve the larger goal — to digitally transform the overall organization. In fact, 73% of CIOs said it’s challenging to find the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence.

According to a recent Gartner observation , it said, the Digital business is maturing, from tentative experiment to application at massive scale. CIOs must evolve their thinking to be in tune with this new era of rapid increases in the scale of digital business. Gartner says that the CIO role will remain critical in transformation workflows.

Every enterprise in order to survive and thrive in the digital economy needs to have a well meshed emerging tech strategy. They need to seamless integrate the new with the old, and in some cases completely overhaul legacy IT. Emerging tech is the key spoke in the digital hub.

Disruptive emerging technologies will play a major role in reshaping business models as they change the economics of all organizations. In a study, Gartner asked CIOs and IT leaders which technologies they expect to be most disruptive. Artificial intelligence (AI) was by far the most mentioned technology and takes the spot as the top game-changer technology away from data and analytics, which is now occupying second place.

THE NEW AGE BLENDED CIO

Aligning IT with business is an age old debate. This became more pronounced when in the 1990s, IT was seen a business enabler and not a cost centre. When the ERP wave swept the enterprises in the 1990s, the nondescript MIS department tucked somewhere in the basement, suddenly became a celebrity and thus CIOs were born. Their stature grew, because they purchased IT. But is the CIO a hands on tech person or a business head driving tech via outsourcing?

I approached a handful of CIOs and posed them this question. Interestingly some shied away and some requested not to mention their names. And some are more vocal. In one of the interactions a leading CIO told me : “ CIO in today’s context should possess a fine blend of knowledge cutting across: Business knowledge, functional expertise, and business process knowledge. Add to that, the knowledge of existing and emerging technologies and people management skills are vital.”

CIOs by and large also agree that technology is becoming increasingly complex. Too much focus on understanding the technology will distract the CIO from focusing on areas like business, IT alignment and collaboration which are critical and a key competence expected from a CIO by the CEO and the business today. More than understanding the nuts and bolts of each technology, the CIO has to focus on assessing the relevance of these technologies to his organization and business and explore ways and means to introduce new technologies in the organization.

“The CIO has to unlearn the ‘one mile depth, one inch wide’ strategy and learn the ‘one inch depth, one mile wide’ strategy which will help the CIO to constantly look for scouting new technologies and cost-effective solutions in a world where new is replacing the old, be it technology or process.”

Clearly, it becomes evident that the CIO has to be both a business and a person who has an aptitude for technology.  So a CIO needs a blended IT strategy. He needs to create a perfect balance and demolish if at all any perception among management that ‘IT is a cost center’ on the contrary, he must create benchmarks on RoI, the bottom line impact, profitability and whole lot of business deliverables and link it with IT and its enterprise impact and drive home the point of ‘IT as a profit center.’

Clearly, the role of the CIO today is one of tightrope walking. He must be a multi-tasking guru and his/her goal is to create a state-of-the-art IT organization. They can be a technologist or business guru but having only one skill (either tech or business) and not the other will lead to failure. So to be a success, the CIO needs to be adept, agile, and willing to learn and unlearn. That will make for a successful CIO.

THE CIO-CFO COLLABORATION

According to a recent Forbes Insights Report, it said that IT Transformation Hinges Upon Eliminating Friction Between CIOs and CFOs, Says Forbes Insights Report. The report made in association with Dell EMC, titled “IT Transformation: Success Hinges on CIO/CFO Collaboration,” finds that a stunning 89% of senior executives acknowledge that significant barriers exist—ranging from outdated ideas about the role of CIOs to obsolete reporting structures—that keep CIOs and CFOs from collaborating more closely. The study’s data derives from a global survey of 500 CEOs, COOs, CIOs and CFOs conducted by Forbes Insights and Dell EMC. The survey and a series of in-depth interviews with global IT and business executives also highlight other underlying frictions that thwart CIOs and CFOs from forming a united front to capitalize on the benefits of IT Transformation.

“Some CFOs still see IT as just a cost center, which doesn’t make collaboration easy,” said Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes Media. “And CIOs need to apply their skills to core business processes like supply chains.”

“Some CFOs still see IT as just a cost center, which doesn’t make collaboration easy,” said Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes Media. “And CIOs need to apply their skills to core business processes like supply chains.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Moreover, experts say that Digital transformation is at the core of all businesses across industries. From a technology standpoint, most clients cannot make an immediate clean sheet of paper transition to a digital technology backbone. Clients will typically build a digital architecture on top of their legacy technology and the integration between these two layers is a very critical part of the transformation. A new broader set of capabilities is required to help clients navigate the digital transition.

So clearly emerging tech driven by Digital is no longer rhetoric IT Organizations across the world over the year were rather compelled to revisit their technology architectures and  ink a bold new strategy aimed at meshing IT with the new normal digital economy business demands. One saw transformation events like legacy modernization, infusing agile methodologies like DevOps in the software development lifecycle, leveraging big data and unbundling ‘On-Prem’ and moving to an ‘on demand regime’- all these topped the agenda of technology decision makers across the world.

“We understand the pressure today’s executives continue to face as they launch and execute digital transformation initiatives. Guidant brings two of the most powerful brands in the IT industry together to support CIOs and IT executives as they seek to leverage technology to drive business strategy,” says Kirk Campbell, President and CEO, IDC.

In tandem, leading CIOs believe that the role of IT inside of the organization has changed as well, to become less focused on large, multi-year projects and application packages and is more focused on delivering in agile sprints and diverse, integrated SaaS offerings.

So at the end of the day what matters is that IT organizations need to take a progressive approach and align their competencies towards ushering in digital transformation that will future proof their tech backbone. In the bargain, IT no longer is the mandate of the CIO only. To create a seamless digital transformation strategy all the stakeholders-the CEO, CFO, CMO, and the CIO have to come on the same page and function in cohesion to realize this transformation.

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