The "New CIO"
Over the last few decades, technology has become increasingly prominent within the business world, transforming the way businesses think, operate, and manage, beyond recognition. The advances in information technology have revolutionized industries, altering not only the culture, but also the pace at which business is conducted. As innovation progresses, business leaders must find a way to adapt to the changing workplace environment in order to keep up with customer needs. Already, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are learning to be more strategic, recognizing the need to better integrate technology across business units within their organization. CIOs are now being acknowledged as key and equal members of the executive team because of the increasing influence of technology.
OPERATIONAL CIO VS. STRATEGIC CIO
An operational CIO is more or less a glorified, tech-centric Program Manager who focuses primarily on managing complex IT projects. Although functional, these types of CIOs are not “game-changers” because they do not place an emphasis on the people, processes, and tools that can be leveraged to promote innovation throughout the organization. Without an equipped advocate for innovation within the organization, companies cannot capitalize on their growth potential. According to recent studies of federal IT portfolios, approximately 80% of the operational CIO’s budget goes towards maintaining current IT systems while the remaining 20% is dedicated towards developing and implementing new technological ideas. Unfortunately, when operational CIOs do uncover new technologies, many struggle to promote them due to their inability to converse in the business realm.
Strategic CIOs, on the other hand, speak the language of business and IT fluently. They are business executives first, and technology experts second, able to translate technical information into actionable insight that drives their business forward. Furthermore, Strategic CIOs focus on the customer’s needs and determine how current and new technologies can best address those needs. In designing and managing IT portfolios, they focus primarily on new efforts in Big Data, mobile, cloud, cyber, and social media, making sure they understand how to leverage these disciplines effectively in order to take advantage of their full potential. Since Strategic CIOs are adept in both the business and technical realms, they are capable of increasing business value, which benefits both the business and the customer.
HOW STRATEGIC CIOS PROSPER
Strategic CIOs are multi-talented, capable of adapting to the needs of the business. They have a wide variety of knowledge and skills and are always prepared to perform, whether as analysts, negotiators, or leaders. Thus, Strategic CIOs are especially valued for their hybrid talent in both the business and technology worlds. They are not simply businessmen and neither should they be categorized as technical staff. Instead, they serve as a hybrid of the two, capable of understanding technical information as well as business drivers and goals. With this unique ability to communicate with all levels of the business, Strategic CIOs possess the capability to effectively drive technology and innovation to increase business value.
To become a strategic CIO, operational CIOs must prove themselves through value added initiatives. Strategic CIOs are leaders in technology and advocates for their company’s technological investments. They drive progress and achieve success by promoting technology as a valuable asset to their company—a strategic CIO understands how new technology will fit into all parts of the business and develops an implementation plan to transition the business towards technological achievements. In addition, the ability to understand the impact of technology on business growth is a critical skill employed by strategic CIOs. In order for CIOs to determine how technology can benefit the company, they must be able to predict its return on investment (ROI). According to The Economist, new technologies are often abandoned because 37% of CIOs do not have the ability to predict its ROI. If a CIO cannot do this, he will not flourish in his field.
It’s strategically necessary that CIOs are knowledgeable of the latest technology, finding ways to integrate it into the company to improve productivity and efficiency. Additionally, since CEOs are a CIOs’ biggest supporters, a strategic CIO focuses on collaborating with the CEO to determine how technology can positively affect the company. Strategic CIOs are able to deal with change, possess good communication skills to advocate new ideas, and most importantly, understand the business so that technology can be used to fulfill company objectives. Therefore, with a strong business sense and an emphasis on technological innovation, strategic CIOs are revolutionizing the business world.