As the impact of technology on the organisation’s business model deepens, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate business strategy from technology. The future of many industries seems inextricably linked to harnessing emerging technologies and disrupting all – or at least part – of the existing business. The power has shifted away from IT and into the hands of the end users, whether they are customers or employees of the company. Mobile, BYOD and cloud-based computing have created new challenges for IT departments, and will continue to do so. As security issues have increased, so, too, has the role of the CIO in determining the best course of action to protect the company's customers and employees.
The latest evolution
There’s a tendency to think the CIO’s role is changing for the first time, but as new technologies and innovations change the way we work, the expectations and importance of CIOs are constantly evolving. This is just the latest paradigm shift in a field that changes faster all the time. Only now, with digital disruption, the consumerisation of IT and the rise of new innovative players, a big shift has occurred in the fundamental perception of the role IT – and by extension the CIO – with regard to the role CIO plays in setting and realising business strategy. CIOs are under pressure to harness emerging disruptive technologies while balancing future needs with today’s operational requirements. They must become ‘integrators’ rather than ‘implementers’; not only the connective tissue but the driving force for intersecting, IT-heavy initiatives.
According to a CIO survey conducted by Gartner in March this year, 75 per cent of CIOs in Asia/Pacific and Japan recognise the need to adapt their leadership style from 'control' to 'visionary' in the next three years to succeed in digital business. Gartner vice president Andy Rowsell-Jones said at the time, “Incrementally improving IT performance isn’t enough to grasp the digital opportunity,” Rather, “CIOs need to ‘flip’ from legacy to digital in terms of information and technology leadership, value leadership and people leadership.” It's no longer a viable option for the CIO and the IT function to simply focus on traditional skills – enabling basic communications and security. They need to add value, and demonstrate and measure that value clearly.
From technology to service
CIOs are moving from a technology to a services world. Today’s CIOs treat technology in a different way – as a service offering. As such, their core challenge is to shift from a traditional IT model to one where the focus is on understanding business requirements of an internal services provider. The result? A service defined enterprise (SDE), which enables the CIO to build a portfolio of offerings. But not all CIOs will make this transition, according to VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger. He remarks that it’s the evolutionary CIOs who will “embrace the role of service provider: they build and support burgeoning portfolios of IT services”, while other CIOs will remain stuck in a ‘keep the lights on and stick to the budget’ mindset, resulting in them being relegated to a ‘care and feeding’ role in the organisation.
CIOs increasingly acknowledge their need to adopt a new approach, and this requires a shift to operating IT effectively rather than just efficiently. However there is little practical advice on how this might be achieved. Our newest how-to guide, ‘Aligning IT and Business: A practical guide for leading change in a service defined world’, explains how CIOs need to change for a service defined world, and offers advice on how to achieve alignment between the business and IT functions. Download your complimentary copy here.