16 March 2020
By Chriss Andrews – firstname.lastname@example.org
The role of the CIO is evolving. At KA2, we continue to see technology leaders managing traditional tasks, like IT infrastructure, operational upgrades, vendor relationships and security. However, today, these tasks are increasingly supplemented with larger, organisation-wide responsibilities, such as corporate data, compliance, the customer experience, business outcomes and navigating an growing marketplace of technologies. The reason? CIOs are uniquely positioned to lead digital transformation and innovation in the service of strategic initiatives, something that was often the purview of the CEO or COO. As the CEO of KA2, this is something I’ve heard firsthand in conversations with other leaders.
As a technology leader, what does this portend for your year ahead? To begin, it’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to “kick down the walls” that currently exist between IT and the rest of the business to dismantle traditional barriers between systems and data. As CIOs evolve from a function-first role to lead strategy and transformation efforts, it’s an opportunity to shape your modern workplace in a scalable and secure way, and to bring others along on the journey.
The journey will require new ways of thinking and leading, and that can be a challenge. A 2018 IDG survey reports that 9 in 10 UK-based CIOs struggle to find the balance between business innovation and operational excellence. Some CIOs might find that the evolution will come from the top down. CIO.com suggests that, “the C-suite wants CIOs to strengthen the security of the enterprise whilst simultaneously reducing their IT spend and facilitating global growth.”
At KA2, we know that one key to success for the modern-day CIO is an ability to break down silos between people, processes and technology. So, as a technology leader, what do you need to know about being the newest “change agent” for your business? In this post, I share a few insights to help technology leaders bridge the gap and strike the right balance between the status quo and new mandates for transformation and agility.
The Role of the Modern CIO
Historically, the CIO was the head of a functional unit or department. If yesterday’s CIO was a strategic partner in the organisation, today’s CIO is that plus visionary and change agent. Today’s CIO can, and should, be the one that builds the bridge between technology and business transformation.
CIOs will of course continue to oversee traditional responsibilities, like system maintenance, security and operational improvements. But they must also be the catalyst and translator to lead digital transformation efforts that will ultimately drive strategic initiatives toward business innovation. To do so, today’s CIO will need to work closer than ever before with leaders across the organisation. To best respond to business changes, as they happen, requires iterative, collaborative approaches and effective uses of technology. And all of this must happen in a way that strengthens security while facilitating growth and innovation.
Gartner, Inc. says the CIO must also be a “culture change agent”. For example, one goal might be to encourage “digital dexterity” as a key competency for individuals and teams. This is especially important if you plan to implement new tools and processes, like cloud-based efficiency or communication platforms. Gartner reports that employees with high digital dexterity are three times more likely to benefit from digital initiatives. The role of today’s CIO is both basics and belief, skills and cultural shift. Remember, technology alone won’t bring the change you desire.
Shift the Conversation from Technology to Business Value
When we talk about “digital transformation” within an organisation, we should focus on that keyword: transformation. No longer can today’s technology leaders’ truly transform a workplace through a stand-alone technology project. Rather, the transformation is part of a larger strategic business initiative, one that’s supported by technology. While tools and technology are a critical component of a successful transformation, savvy CIOs will shift these conversations away from platform toward new and innovative ways of working.
The best way to do this is to align IT goals to measurable and positive business outcomes, such as company profitability, customer satisfaction and business revenue. Technology will support this connection, both in terms of implementing the right solutions and in measuring the outcome on your business.
Many CIOs have traditionally been hesitant to link technology investments to financial performance. Yet, technology leaders should measure and discuss the impact and value of tech-driven transformation with leaders and the board. Doing so will demonstrate the strategic potential and ensure continued investment in dimensions such as growth and innovation or data and insights for better decision-making.
All of this will require a shift in mindset. Bridging the gap between IT and business outcomes means that technology leaders must work collaboratively across the entire C-Suite and organisation. They will need to challenge the status-quo and to counter risk-averse behavior through adaptable approaches to service delivery. Try thinking of technology in terms of operational impact, such as how it influences the customer and the company, rather than just internal impact. While the latter metrics are important, the former will carry more weight with decision makers at your organisation. Connecting technology investment with clear business outcomes will also help ensure that your workplace transformation remains a strategic priority.
Driving Cultural Change
Building a bridge between IT and business outcomes will also require a cultural shift at your organisation, and technology leaders have a crucial role to play in changing the organisation’s collective mindset.
It might be helpful to see this in practice. The Telegraph recently spoke with Met Office CIO Charles Ewen about his vision for business transformation. In the piece, Ewen said that transformation takes place across the entire organisation and “whilst science and technology is at the heart of the work, it is certainly recognised and managed involving and affecting all.” He goes on to tell the Telegraph that the outcomes have extended well beyond traditional technology teams and past specific tools and techniques, in an effort to develop a responsive culture. “In that, ‘grand challenges’ are, by definition, not always met quickly and so developing a culture that always understands the relevance of the work that we undertake and how it will contribute to outcomes, even if long term, is the target,” he said.
Again, the best way to bring people, processes and technology together is to tie everything back to desired business outcomes. Such a framework ensures that leadership will act to align technology initiatives, internal processes and values to drive cultural change. Soft skills, like facilitation and collaboration, will undoubtedly come into play here. CIOs will need to collaborate across the organisation, to build trust and establish clarity around desired goals.
For the modern-day CIO, one proven way to embrace this change, and succeed in new roles, is to seek the help of workplace transformation experts, like KA2. Our team here at KA2 specialises in helping organisations in highly regulated sectors ensure outcomes-based technology transformation that aligns with the unique goals of their business. Guided by our Smarter Framework, our approach transcends siloed thinking and organisational constructs to chart a course of transformation guided by information security, compliance and sustainable results.
If you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.