We’re living in strange times. Suddenly an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely and businesses are struggling to adapt to a new reality caused by the coronavirus. A reality where IT infrastructures, supply chains, critical business functions and people are pushed to the limit of adapting to a situation that changes daily.
As an example, Microsoft Teams grew from 12 million users to 44 million users, increasing almost 40% and generating 900 million meeting and calling minutes in just 7 days.
CIO’s role has become central in ensuring a technology backbone that supports critical business dimensions and enables business continuity.
Organizations are realizing that business indeed is technology driven. COVID-19 is changing the role of CIO as we speak.
The perception and decision power of the CIO role is changing
Philip van der Wilt from ServiceNow said “What many might think is yesterday’s world of reporting into the CFO and pursuing cost optimization still appears to be the reality of today for many CIOs”.
Yet CIOs continue to gain strategic influence. In 2019, 66% of IT leaders believed their role had gained influence. The perception of a CIO as a functional backroom tech-driven leader is changing and CIOs need to continue owning the change of becoming strategic business leaders and enablers of business growth.
With the changed work conditions imposed by the corona crisis, CIO’s role and responsibility has become more exposed internally. Full workforces and business function leaders are depending on their technology backbone to sustain their businesses. This places a huge responsibility for CIOs.
That is why CIOs need to be a part of strategic decision-making. The vulnerabilities in the IT and business landscape will be addressed after the pandemic, and CIOs need to play an active part in building a flexible foundation that enables future growth. As shortcomings and opportunities have been identified, technology upgrades or transformations will be a part of the answer to those.
CIOs need to continue tearing down old perceptions of what their role is and show what the role should be: much more than a cost reduction function – a driver for and revenue growth and business value.
The leader of change – breaking down silos
Organizations are becoming more aware of their internal silos between IT and Business and gained a better understanding of the vulnerability these silos has led to.
On the road to being involved in strategic decision-making, CIOs need to be leaders of change, breaking down the silos both within the IT organization and between IT and Business.
CIOs are already becoming more engaged with their end-users and understanding their customers’ needs. However, they need to extend their view beyond the IT dimension, taking a more holistic approach of the entire organization to fully understand all the dimensions.
While this organizational transformation is not a simple journey, it is a necessity which the CIO must actively drive. The transformation requires a shift in CIO’s perception, behavior and language when communicating to business. This current situation emphasizes this as the path CIOs need to own: being enforcers of change.
Own the business technology agenda
Business technology is all about leveraging technology to create value for business. The high dependency currently placed on technology is a testimony for CIOs becoming integrated with the business.
More and more CIOs will be focusing on strengthening their relationships with their business counterparts, ensuring that needs are understood, and the right technological partnerships and tools are selected to support the needs.
This will ensure that CIOs do not drive a technology agenda, but a business technology agenda that aims to enable business growth and value creation, support end-users, and make business processes run efficiently.
Leading the transformation of traditional IT structures
Many organizations still continue to be hindered by old legacy infrastructure that reduces their flexibility and adaptability. In the latest Nordic Digital Insights 2020 report, 61% responded that they continue to be challenged by legacy infrastructure, which slows down their digital transformation journey.
Standard IT operating processes and ways of working are challenged, and therefore need to be updated, adjusted or changed. The current need for accessing data and working remotely enforces that CIOs should continue driving the digital transformation agenda. Now, focusing more on transforming core IT systems and processes and how cloud solutions can become the new model for digital services.
That’s why CIOs will take a leading role in accelerating the digital transformation in their businesses, ensuring the vulnerabilities identified during this period are addressed top down, together with the business.
Active presence in the Executive Management Team
In the past two years, CIOs sitting on the Executive Management Team dropped from 71% to 58%. We believe, and encourage, that the importance of a strong integrated technology backbone will increase the number of CIOs in the Executive Management Team.
To secure a seat in strategic decisions, CIOs will have to:
- Create clarity around their BT operating model, the priorities of the IT organization and how it delivers business value
- Focus more on performance metrics showing the digital enablement, value to the business and revenue potential, and less on costs and operations
- Actively engage with business counterparts ensuring the IT strategy is embedded into business strategy, creating a business technology strategy
It’s up to the CIOs to take the necessary steps. It is time to change the traditional mindset, challenge old perceptions and transform IT into a core driver of business value.
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