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The ever-expanding role of the CIO

When people hear Chief Information Officer (CIO), they think of information technology (IT) and data. While all executive positions are vital to an organisation’s success, one of the most important is the CIO.

The job description far exceeds public perception of their responsibilities. Not only is she or he responsible for supporting and executing enterprise goals, but they are now expected to play an integral part when it comes to developing best practices, planning resources, managing budgets and training employees.

Given the multitude of responsibilities CIOs are now tasked with handling, it has become increasingly important that they can act as an executive business leader with an eye on the technology, financial and security implications of their role.

In order to push a company ahead of the competition, the CIO must spark innovation, be financially savvy and above all else, ensure that assets are safe. Business strategy and IT strategy should no longer be looked at as separate endeavors, but rather as one. As the role of technology in business grows, so should the role of the CIO. The following report profiles the different roles the CIO needs to play in order to adapt to the ever-changing impact of business technology.

The CIO as the Chief Innovation Officer

Chief Information Officer? The CIO acronym must also stand for “Chief Innovation Officer.” The technology landscape is moving at light speed. Lagging behind on innovation can set an organisation back, making it increasing important that CIOs push their team to think in new and innovative ways to harness necessary technology.

A CIO can help their team identify and propose new areas where technology, company structure and day-to-day practices can be integrated for better business value. Challenges must be channeled into opportunities. While many would see shadow IT as a threat, a CIO can use it as an avenue for improved workflow by allowing employees to work with devices and programs they’re comfortable using. When employees stray from sanctioned corporate technology tools, it is because they are not satisfied with the existing solutions. A CIO would use this seemingly troublesome situation to identify future IT solutions that better align with the IT department and business initiatives. What is crucial is the constant ability to pivot, to turn a setback into a step forward.

According to IDC, two-thirds of CEOs plan to focus on digital transformation strategies in 2016, and CIOs will be major players in leading every department through the shift. Because the CIO has primarily been seen as a technical position, viewing this role as a source of innovation can be unexpected. However as technology advances, competition arises and budgets are reduced, the CIO must be strategically aware of how a company can get ahead of the game.

The CIO as the Chief Financial Officer

The end goal of a company is ultimately to become profitable. Without responsible financial planning and record-keeping – they would all fail. A Chief Financial Officer’s main role is to manage the financial assets and risks of a corporation, but when it comes to IT spending, should the CIO or the CFO have primary authority? As the CIO is responsible for implementing the hugely expensive IT resources of a company, it would make sense that the CIO also has executive oversight over these decisions – and that increasingly is the case.

In order for CIOs to increase collaboration, they must think and act like a CFO. With IT budgets making up an average of 4.7 per cent of an enterprises’ overall spending – and rising every year – the CIO has a significant influence on budgeting. CIOs need to show that the ROI in technology is an investment that will actually save the company money.

IDG reports that companies will spend an average of $7.4 million on data-related initiatives over the next twelve months, with enterprises investing $13.8 million. Traditional back-office IT is no longer the key focus as CIOs are needed to bridge the gap between roles carried out by both IT and non-IT professionals in businesses, in order to facilitate more effective, interdisciplinary working relationships

The CIO as the Chief Security Officer

These days, a Chief Security Officer has an increasingly important role as more and more companies fall victim to data breaches. CIOs are responsible for supporting an enterprise’s goals, so it only makes sense that they start protecting it as well. According to Forrester’s predictions for 2016, cybersecurity will swing from dealing with ongoing threats to preventing them. The report predicts that security and risk professionals will increase spending on prevention by 5 to 10 per cent.

Whether it’s prevention or dealing with security risks as they come, both must be budgeted into the IT spend for the year. Combined with the growing impact of potential security breaches, the CIO must become more responsible for the security of assets and information in both physical and digital form. It’s important that CIOs identify, implement and maintain security processes across the organisation especially when mobile, BYOD and new technologies add to the changing threat landscape.

Technology is changing everything – from security to executive roles to how we interact with each other and even with the world around us. Once relied upon to deal with IT and data, the CIO’s role will continue to shift to implement innovation and attributes normally handled by the CSO and CFO.

Taking the time to define what this new role will entail goes a long way in making sure enterprises are in sync on who’s handling the different parts of the business.

Walker White, President of BDNA

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