15% CEOs feel CIOs can Become CDOs: S Krishnan, Gartner

The CIO role is at the crossroads. Caught up in the traditional app, infrastructure and security mindset for long, CIOs are suddenly staring at trends such as technology commoditization and Shadow IT

Sriram Krishnan, Executive Partner, Gartner, throws light on the future of this profile.   How is the CIO role undergoing a transformation? What will the new role look like? The position of the CIO is challenged in that it no longer requires a technology expert and could be assumed by other business function heads. The advent of Digital requires different approaches and competencies and is forcing CIOs to change behaviours and learn new capabilities and (soft) skills.  CIOs must understand these dynamics and accordingly work towards redefining themselves and the priorities of the IT function. The senior management team at Corporates clearly has very strong expectations from their CIOs. The successful CIO would be one who is able to demonstrate business urgency Other profiles such as CMO and CDO are increasingly gaining prominence and taking technology related decision within enterprises. Where does all this action leave a CIO? Firstly, CIOs must recognize that the onus of technology decisions in the digital world is not with them alone.  There will be many stakeholders within the organization who will provide their views and inputs on choices in order to deliver positive business outcomes. The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and CDO (Chief Digital Officer) have specific roles to play and have budgets to drive priorities. Secondly, CIOs adopt traditional approaches to responding to the needs of these stakeholders and IT is unable to keep manage the demand and supply requirements leaving the CMO and CDO to find their solutions. CIOs need to therefore adopt innovative approaches to managing outcomes for these business leaders and create a true sense of partnership. But doesn’t this dilute the authority of the CIO? Absolutely not. The CMOs and CDOs participating actively on technology discussions should not be construed as them making decisions on technology issues. At the end of the day, CIOs will have ownership for implementation of the technology and setting up the overall governance through appropriate Policies and Standards. Open communication and proactive approaches to educate other business stakeholders like CMOs and CDOs on these will ensure success.  The end goal of an enterprise technology leader is to bring agility in the decision making process. CIOs have a great opportunity to increase their collaboration with business stakeholders and script success together. So what is preventing CIOs from doing so? IT has always been viewed as a complex subject area and hence has made the CIOs role very exclusive. There are very few CIOs who work closely with other C-suite members in their companies. Interactions with these stakeholders is largely related to specific initiatives and hence makes the interaction very transactional. CIOs are now required to change their ways of working and move beyond the world of applications and infrastructure to shape business thinking and provide technology leadership which will be defining in the world of digital business. Most CIOs today report to CFOs. Will this change going forward? Reporting is not really a determinant. Whether they report to the CEO, COO or CFO doesn’t matter because these individuals are all part of the senior executive. This reporting structure actually gives CIOs a direct channel into the Executive team and consequently the Board. However, they need to demonstrate strategic thinking and behaviours to give themselves the opportunity to position technology as a differentiator for their business organisation. Several CIOs are looking to move up the value chain and become CDOs. Would this be the right career progression for them? In Gartner’s global survey of CIOs and CEOs, participants were asked as to who could be the best to assume the role of the CDO in their organizations. Around 47% of the CIO respondents said that they were best positioned to handle this responsibility. However, only 15% of the CEOs supported this view. As I mentioned earlier, the CIOs role is under threat from other business leaders who see the position of the CIO as an opportunity to propel themselves into higher career orbits. CIOs should recognize the vantage position they are in and develop themselves further to move into new business roles. So what does the future look like for the CIO position? Most CIOs today may not qualify to be the CIOs of tomorrow. To manage the dynamics in the new digital era, CIOs will have to unlearn before learning new things. First and foremost, they have to break free from their traditional approaches and break away from just managing applications, infrastructure and security which can be easily outsourced. Effective communication, presentation skills, business and commercial acumen and an Executive presence are all attributes that will define a future CIO. Secondly, they must realize that with the advent of SMAC, business functions have a lot of expectations from technology. So here is a great opportunity for CIOs to engage actively with their peers in their organization on a number of areas – Digital strategy, Architecture, Governance, technologies and their relevance and impact on the business, delivery models (Cloud, on-premise, hybrid, etc. and in what situations), increasing adoption of mobility, vendor selection and management, program management, business value of IT among others. Lastly, almost all services provided by the IT department are becoming commoditized and it is therefore imperative that a technology leader stays relevant. We are at the cusp of a new order in IT. The opportunity for CIOs to reinvent themselves is NOW.

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