Where next for CIOs?

Where next for CIOs?
Published: 4 October 2018

In my last piece I asked; if every business is now a tech business, do we all need a CTO? Clearly there isn’t a blister pack answer to this, but it does raise the question about the role of a CIO amongst the exploitation of technology for commercial benefit. 

Having shaken off the tame techie moniker, and escalated the mission beyond plumbing in ‘good IT’ the challenges facing a CIO are both exciting and refreshing. Where the CTO is at the heart of driving innovation through technology, the CIO has to seek a wider commercial contribution.

Acknowledged as an all-rounder, the CIO has to be more ‘decathlete’ than Swiss army knife – a master of multiple disciplines with a contribution to make in every lane. Looking at the operational domain, the challenge has escalated squarely into the business agenda through cyber and information security. Protecting the critical intelligence and information assets required has brought the CIO into the circle on decisions of business and commercial risk. Further comes the need to consistently evolve the enabling technology estate in such a manner that it meets the demands of the commercial strategy. Arguably this puts the CIO into the vanguard of commercial leadership; ensuring the business can successfully execute on its strategic journey. 

Clearly the CIO’s commercial skills are critical and are continuously evolving when looking into the IT function. The dramatic velocity of change in commercial and technology markets, means CIOs must take bold buy, build, own and operate decisions.  In a world where there is cloud ‘everything’, security and data are ever increasingly being delivered as a service, CIOs must break the mind set of owning and operating the full estate. In short, excel at the bits you are excellent at, buy the rest from the most appropriate resource. 

Embracing partners to deliver a reduced ‘run IT’ burden, CIOs create the space and freedom to help the business operate where it can be most successful. This includes both internal and external perspectives. The CIO must support the firm in creating and delivering close customer relationships, evolving the mechanisms of doing business wherever they wish to engage. The CIO must enable, support and accelerate channel shift, and multi-modal customer experience through enhanced digital adoption and data exploitation.

Now more than ever, there is a real need for CIOs who can meet and conquer these challenges. ‘Execute and operate’ skills remain at the heart of a CIO’s make-up, as do ‘change & transformation’ leadership skills gained from major programme delivery. But it is board communication skills, as well as the presence and interpersonal skills to shape effective delivery across the whole enterprise, where a CIO reaches beyond functional management.  Boards need CIOs prepared to stand up for something. At the core of it is leadership, everything that follows is then in the hands of the individual to conceive, shape, and deliver… go boldly!

Matt Cockbill, Partner, leads the IT & Digital Leadership Practice for Berwick Partners. 

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