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The ‘Transitional’ CIO

By ,

News flash! The role of the CIO is changing.

Hardly a day passes without the CIO role featuring as the main topic in some article, journal, blog or insight paper. The impact of technology on business spans the entire spectrum from disruption to enablement. In many cases the CIO is expected to provide guidance on how an organisation should behave in the face of all this technological change, while simultaneously being fully aware of all the good (and bad) elements it can bring to a business.

For the CIO, moving from the traditional IT gatekeeper role to the transformational business enabler role is a massive change – it’s like changing career path. Much of what they’ve learnt needs to be unlearnt. Or at the very least viewed from a totally different perspective.

These are the three key areas I believe the CIO will need to address to make that move from traditional to transformational.

1.  Core responsibility

For the traditional CIO, the core responsibility pivots on technology. Generally the biggest influence on any decision will be how to integrate into the existing environment. This approach results in the technology limiting what the business can achieve. Those limits are then magnified because of the constraints of the existing IT environment – which is a dangerous cycle. This is a bottoms up approach with the objective of improving the existing environment, ofter without any consideration for applications or services that may be needed in the near future.

For the transformational CIO the core responsibility is always to the business. Business decisions are made based on growth plans and market demands. This new breed of CIO needs to understand the business more than the technology. Or put another way, they should have experience in IT but have the ambition of a business leader.

2. Core purpose

In the world of the traditional CIO the core purpose is to make sure that everything is operationally sound. Making sure processes, procedures, kit life cycles, software releases, service tasks, migrations and more are planned, executed and completed with the minimum impact on the business. If the CIO line of businesses is invisible to the wider organisation then they’re doing an excellent job.  But in doing this excellent job, they’re totally oblivious to what the wider business needs and now shadow IT is a problem that they don’t even know exists. Going around this CIO has never been easier.

The transformation CIO is strategically aware and is planning accordingly. While keeping the lights on is important, it’s soon taken for granted. This CIO is less concerned about where the existing IT environment has evolved from and is more concerned about what the business needs to support its ambitions. Serving up more of the same will not cut it so this CIO must aligning with the business demands of the future and translate them into what is needed to enable the business for success. There is no point in going around this CIO as they will already be aware of what is happening and, ideally, be a few steps ahead.

3. Top table presence

While the traditional CIO may believe that they should have a place at the top table, the hard truth is that they wouldn’t understand the language. Rare presence to C-level for investment requests or updates on business impacting outages is usually the extent of the exposure. This is an environment where the strategic course is set for business success and execution plans implemented.

The transformational CIO will be ever-present with C-Level peers. Broadly modelled on the CEO, this CIO will be the change leader of the group and will be front and centre providing the tools to drive the business forward. This is a vital position the importance of which the peers are only too aware. Operating horizontally capturing all requirements, all the while being aware of what the market can offer to support the business ambitions.

There’s a stark difference between the two roles and where they’re positioned. The traditional CIO shouldn’t be written off. Their appreciation, understanding and respect of what IT can bring to a business is extremely valuable, not forgetting that they know how the business is built, literally. The organisation needs to reset the expectation that they require from the CIO and let them grow into the transformational role that the business will need in the future.

If you’re that transitional CIO, and you need to think differently, talk to us. We have the solutions that will help your business transform and grow.

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