The CIO as a boardroom influencer

The shift in the nature of the CIO’s role is most influenced by the changing technologies of social, mobile, cloud computing and so on. With these profound changes, the CIO has the opportunity to move from traditional IT roles to become more involved in business strategy.

No department has undergone such profound change as IT. The platforms, the tools-of-the-trade and the skillsets required to do the job have changed. The IT function is now integrated into all aspects of an organisation and is expected to operate as a business-within-a-business. Overseeing these changes is the CIO, a role that is continually evolving to meet the new world of IT.

The shift in the nature of the CIO’s role is most influenced by the changing technologies of social, mobile, cloud computing and big data analytics. With these profound changes, the CIO has the opportunity to move from traditional IT roles to become more involved in business strategy.

The changing role of IT

IT teams used to focus on providing products and services such as software design, in-house hardware and infrastructure, security, installation and maintenance. Now a significant portion of IT budgets are devoted to cloud-based applications, and IT is required to provide conventional technical services consistently, as well as innovate in a faster, more agile manner to stay competitive.

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IT was formerly a back-end operation offering services and products to internal users. Today IT has rapidly moved to the front lines of business. In the past, IT departments never faced customers, but now, in many organisations, customers have become an IT priority. The focus has shifted from technology and vendors to the end customers who buy and use goods and services.

The new platforms behind digital disruption

In the past, it was very easy to point to a device and say “that is a computer,” but today’s platform is often hard to identify. Instead of a single identifiable device, IT staff face an assortment of technologies, devices, and services that encompass mobile, cloud computing and social.

For example, mobile has catapulted in importance. In addition to providing satisfying mobile experiences, CIOs face the challenge of implementing

solutions based on a wide array of devices that can be upgraded and replaced at a staggering pace. Within the organisation, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies greatly increase the security burden on today’s IT teams. Social media also presents challenges. Social media and related technologies have given rise to “social business.” Many customer-facing and internal processes can be enhanced through the use of social technologies.

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Social media has already revolutionised customer service, and has the potential to take it even further. Social business creates huge opportunity for IT leadership and teams, since businesses are only recently starting to understand and create metrics related to social business.

Running IT as a business

As a driver of organisational change and innovation, the IT team must operate as a strong, capable, multi-disciplinary business within the larger company. Most IT leaders and staff, however, have technical backgrounds and have little business skills training or experience. IT teams often struggle to provide a basic level of business, communication, business analysis, project management, management, leadership and other “non-technical” skills to their teams.

This is what makes collaboration with other business units, as well as strategic hiring and training practices, of the utmost importance. CIOs need to put time into establishing personal relationships with business peers to take a truly multi-disciplinary approach to running the IT business while they grow talent within their own units. CIOs must break down any existing barriers between themselves and the rest of the C-suite to show marketing, finance, human resources, and the other senior executives that IT services play a role in enhancing other business units.

Digitalisation relies on adequate skills

In the last decade 43% of the IT sector was outsourced. In order to address the new expectations placed upon IT, organisations are now looking to bring more workers and skills back in-house. However, as companies look to fill more in-house IT openings, they are faced with a staffing shortage. CIOs looking to transform their business cannot get far without the right talent—but demand for certain skills often greatly exceeds supply.

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To combat skill gaps and staffing shortages, forward thinking CIOs are turning to intelligent eLearning solutions that provide IT teams with engaging, multi-modal content and tailored learning paths. This approach can meet each individual’s learning requirements, and encourages people to fit learning into their working day when and where they can.

Becoming a boardroom influencer

Today’s CIO has a central role in creating corporate strategy. With IT established as a valued, competent part of business, the CIO has the potential to become an influencer, using the rise of digital technology as an opportunity to drive digital strategy. More than just an IT engineer, the CIO and top IT management can become business decision makers who are pivotal in their organisation’s uses of disruptive technology. A savvy CIO boardroom influencer will:

• Engage digitally-savvy customers, by teaming up with the CMO. Using data to get to know customers better, identifying behaviour patterns and predicting trends, analysing profitability of products and services so they can be flexible in offerings.

• Master the basics of IT strategy before turning to focus on business strategy. Minimising time spent keeping servers running and proactively managing IT risk.

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• Boost collaboration to not just boost efficiency or cut costs, but craft true partnerships at the top. The entire organisation faces the digital disruption challenge. It’s up the CIO to provide leadership, decision-making, performance improvement and innovation.

• Ensure IT teams and employees have access to adequate training resources that can support their professional development and equip them for digital transformation.

Ultimately, as digitalisation progresses, the CIO has the opportunity to move away from their traditional IT-focused role, to become a business leader. By honing their leadership skills, being open to collaboration with other department heads and ensuring their IT teams are adequately skilled for digital transformation, CIOs can firmly position themselves as boardroom influencers.


Sourced by Jim Zimmermann, director – solution practice and solution principal, IT and digital skills – at Skillsoft

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...