From functional to future-state: the evolving CV of the CIO

The shift to the service defined enterprise is demanding CIOs change their role, the way they plan and the structure of their team. Whilst it can be complex and challenging to pull off, the change in the perceived and actual value of the IT division is profound. The role of the CIO is in a transitional state, where a new breed of leader is developing a methodology and a team that is business facing.

At this year’s CIO Summit in Sydney, Genea CIO and Director of the CIO Executive Council, Peter Nevin, presented on the evolution of the CIO role. He introduced the three CIO types: function head, transformational leader and business strategist or ‘future-state’ CIO. Based on your current primary activities, which archetype best describes you?

The functional CIO

This CIO’s primary activities include the running of the IT organisation, achieving operational IT excellence and providing effective, reliable services. At this level, competencies applied include people and organisation development, team leadership and functional expertise, and value delivered is in the way of systems efficiency and effectiveness, security, and data management.

The transformational CIO

This CIO leverages alignment and close partnership with the business to create enterprise change and optimise processes. At this stage the IT leader is more strategic and results oriented, focused on change leadership, collaboration and influence. IT is more influential in the organisation and delivers value in terms of optimised business processes, globalisation and enterprise agility.

The future-state CIO

This CIO enables business strategy and competitive advantage through innovation across and external to the enterprise, causing IT to be regarded as a game changer in the organisation. CIOs at this level assist with the development of the business’ strategy, study market trends and customer needs to identify commercial opportunities, and develop new go-to-market strategies and technologies.


According to Nevin’s analysis of current CIO distribution, 19% of CIOs are considered functional, 34% transformational and 47% strategist. The analysis of future distribution of CIOs predicts that in three to five years’ time, just 4% will be functional, 26% transformational and 68% strategist. Of course, no CIO is purely one of the three archetypes, as most spend some portion of their time working across each. However, to be valuable and relevant long term, CIOs should spend most of their time focusing on transformational and business strategist activities.

Becoming a future-state CIO requires IT leaders to build on credibility of functional accomplishments, gain influence through transformation, and ultimately position IT as an enabler of the enterprise by driving business strategy. To progress, CIOs must apply key competencies to adjust their focus, enhance staff expertise, and elevate stakeholder relationships. The results: comprehensive business value and ensured relevance of the profession in any business climate. Those that successfully make the transition to the future-state CIO will be seen to be ‘game changers’ in the enterprise.

However, whilst this shift is good for business value, many IT leaders are not well equipped for the demands of such a role change. For practical advice on how to make the transition to a more business strategy oriented and external facing CIO, download a copy of our complimentary how-to guide, ‘Aligning IT and Business: A practical guide for leading change in a service defined world’.

Tags CIO, CIO Leadership, CIO summit, CIOs, role of CIO, service defined enterprise, CIO role


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