The CIO’s role is changing – here’s why

What can the new-look CIO do to construct a successful IT function that goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the business?

Businesses everywhere are currently undergoing some kind of digital transformation as they focus on improving the delivery and scope of their latest products and services. In doing so, technology spending power has begun to move away from the CIO’s reporting line, and towards the rest of the business. As a result, the role of the CIO is changing – fast.

Where once they were primarily concerned with building and delivering technology, CIOs today are likely to focus more on influencing the purchase of a range of technologies, and on nurturing talent and innovation across the business.

According to Gartner’s latest CIO Agenda Survey, the top areas of increased investment for CIOs in 2023 include cyber and information security (66 per cent), business intelligence/data analytics (55 per cent) and cloud platforms (50 per cent). Meanwhile, just 32 per cent are increasing investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and 24 per cent in hyperautomation.

However, it was also found that 95 per cent of organisations struggle with developing a vision for digital change, often due to competing expectations from different stakeholders.

>See also: The role of the CIO in a digital age

When you consider that, in today’s environment, most innovation and business transformation will rely to some extent on the practical application of technology, it makes sense that many top CIOs surveyed have responsibility for areas of the business outside traditional IT, including innovation and transformation.

While finding the right corporate environment is important, technology plays an equally fundamental role in nurturing and empowering the culture of innovation necessary to affect change.

>See also: More than 3,000 CIOs confirm their changing role – Gartner

It’s not unreasonable, therefore, to say that CIOs should be considered as at much at the forefront of scaled plans as those designing and implementing them.

Time and freedom to think

Faced with an increasing number of threats both internal and external, CIOs have had to prioritise areas such as cyber security in recent years just to keep their businesses protected. In doing so, they’ve also been charged with embracing the latest technological developments such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and the plethora of connected devices that comprise the burgeoning Internet of Things; technologies that will foster greater innovation and provide their businesses with a more competitive edge.

Increasingly, however, it won’t necessarily be an organisation’s IT department that drives the adoption of emerging technologies. More often, other areas of the business will now be in a better position to identify the innovative technology that will deliver greater customer value, and the specific use cases in which it can be implemented.

77 per cent of CIOs surveyed by Gartner claimed that IT staff are primarily providing innovation and collaboration capabilities, compared with 18 per cent stating that non-IT personnel are providing these tools. With this in mind, Gartner vice-president analyst Daniel Sanchez-Reina warned that “over-dependence on IT staff for digital delivery reflects a traditional mindset, which can impede agility”.

With less of a need to attend to more traditional responsibilities, CIOs can find more time and freedom in which to think, and to employ new technologies that might be beyond the understanding and scope of their colleagues in the IT department. Embracing this exciting new opportunity will allow CIOs to continue constructing a successful IT function that can work in conjunction with the wider business as part of a combined bid to achieve its overall objectives.

>See also: Going digital: the changing role of the CIO

According to Gartner, “Some CIOs favour a separate digital team while others make digitalisation a part of the day job of IT and the enterprise. However, 71 per cent of the top performers have a separate digital team to help them scale their digitisation efforts.”

Once the ‘manufacturer’ of IT systems, the role of the CIO has now shifted to the role of the ‘buyer’. Success is no longer measured in how systems are constructed and delivered, but rather by the tangible outcomes that integrated technologies can deliver to a business.

Once a CIO is clearly seen as occupying the position of establishing and directing influence over an organisation’s – ever-increasing – technology spend, it will become far easier for the business and CIOs themselves to achieve what is fast becoming an inevitable and necessary shift in both focus and role.

Matt Fisher is vice-president, marketing at SHI International.


Information Age’s guide to tech leadership roles — Exploring the four biggest tech leadership roles: the CTO, CIO, CDO and CPO.

Business and tech leadership predictions 2023Leadership of business and tech is set to continue evolving in line with customer and workforce needs. Here are six expert predictions for what 2023 will hold.

Gartner reveals top strategic tech trends for CIOs to watch in 2023Here are Gartner’s top 10 strategic tech trends that CIOs and IT executives should explore in 2023.

Related Topics