A manifesto for today’s digital CIO

The digital age has thrown the CIO into the spotlight in the boardroom and indeed across the business. They are leading the digital charge by managing systems and collaborating with personnel horizontally across the business.

According to BT’s recent report ‘The digital CIO’, 72 per cent of senior IT decision makers believe that the role of the CIO has become more central in the boardroom over the last two years. Demand for agility and flexibility is high and CIOs are being relied upon for their ability to straddle both traditional IT and the future innovation agenda.

One trend the research points to is that digitalisation is rapidly transforming business. Seventy-six per cent of organisations across the world are working hard to adopt a multi-speed, or bimodal, approach to technology initiatives. This approach allows organisations to prioritise specific, progressive initiatives that deliver considerable benefits to businesses.

Champions of positive change.

Now more than ever, flexibility when working with new business models, faster adoption of technology trends and more agile working practices are regarded as a CIO’s crucial strengths.

Although the CIO’s role continues to change dramatically, the old practicalities and pressures remain. Close to two-thirds of senior IT decision makers feel the CIO is forced to spend more time maintaining current IT systems than searching for new solutions. That is a drop from our research in 2014, when the figure was 74 per cent, but shows that the CIO is still operating with one foot firmly trapped in the server room door.

Measurement of success has also shifted. Two years ago the top measurement of success was less downtime/more network availability. The recent study shows it is now budget versus revenue growth year-on-year. Data recoverability used to be among the top three, but has dropped out to make room for lowering operational costs.

Out of the silo and into the shadow

With the IT function becoming more horizontal across the organisation, the business partner model is creating a challenge for traditional IT. IT is increasingly expected to behave as an advisor to other departments, guiding them in their decisions to adopt IT software and ensuring security across all applications. One of its main tasks is to ensure information is managed responsibly and consistently. Both, the CIO and the IT function are expected to behave as consultants across other parts of the organisation. At the same time, the consulting skillset is most lacking within the IT function according to 79 per cent of senior IT decision makers.

As organisations adapt, the rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud offer organisations the opportunity to implement centralised management systems and roll out security across a number of applications using a single service. This gives the IT function relief from significant upgrade and maintenance responsibilities and means that systems are no longer bound to their physical constraints.

The digital CIO

Whilst the majority of organisations now employ a Chief Digital Officer to drive digital initiatives, the responsibility for innovation still lies firmly with the CIO. Almost three quarters of boardrooms expect their CIO to be the driving force for innovation and creative disruption. The positive shifts in CIO responsibilities show this with greater opportunity for them to add value to the business and have a stronger say in strategic decisions. The downside of this is an increase in time dedicated to dealing with corporate issues.
The digital world is becoming increasingly complex. To match this, organisations need to move quickly or face being left behind.

It is now the role of the CIO to implement changes that will lead their organisation into its digital future. To do this, the digital CIOs must balance control and security with guidance and stewardship if they are to be regarded as the facilitators of change.

Ashish Gupta, president, UK corporate and global banking & financial markets, BT Global Services

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