The changing role of the CIO: Evolution and embracing agile management

Since the dawn of the digital age, expectations of the chief information officer (CIO) continue to change. As the pace of digitisation continues to accelerate and new technologies are introduced, CIOs are becoming increasingly responsible for the variety of data sources that proliferate and impact every department in an organisation.

It is expected that the CIO will plan and develop a computing infrastructure that supports all business and product lines in heterogeneous computing environments both on-premises, and on hybrid & public cloud platforms. In fact, it is essential that every decision the CIO makes is aligned to business objectives and can drive value for the business and its customers.

The CIO’s role is becoming increasingly more focused on competitive advantages for the business that can only be achieved with IT-driven transformational initiatives rather than supporting the business through ‘keeping the lights on’. This added responsibility, of course, can bring both challenges and opportunities.

Detailed below are some of the new expectations of the CIO’s office, which are continuing to evolve the role of the CIO.

Operational support and strategic planning go hand-in-hand

Today’s CIO not only oversees the efficiency and stability of the IT infrastructure, but also day-to-day operational tasks such as computing platforms, networking infrastructure, business applications, collaboration and productivity tools.

Now more than ever, the CIO has to have a long-term roadmap. It takes a two- to three-year plan, at a minimum, to stay ahead of the competition and gain advantage through IT innovation and advancements in technology, implementation and development methodologies.

Advancements in technology happen at a rapid pace and it’s the CIO’s responsibility to continually analyse tomorrow’s infrastructure alternatives, such as different cloud platforms and serverless computing. Today the computing landscape is global, virtual and constantly connected, bringing new paradigms and challenges for the CIO to handle. By staying in step with technology innovations, the CIO is making it possible for the business to reduce expenses, improve performance and enhance security.

As a result of these additional responsibilities, CIOs are spending more time on strategic planning over traditional operational duties.

Security is a major part of the CIO’s world

Security threats are more prevalent today than ever before. With cyber security threats targeting computing infrastructure and data, the CIO is attuned and focused on security. Some organisations have even consolidated the CIO and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles, ensuring an aligned strategy.

In organisations where the roles are still separate, security guidelines come from the CISO, but it is up to the CIO to implement security controls, as they are managed in the computing environment. This includes data security, data encryption, user access controls, hardening of the operating systems, and security controls installed on the endpoints.

Embracing agile management methods

CIOs have had to change the way traditional IT tasks are managed. In the past, CIO projects were long term, highly dependent tasks. Today’s CIO must think and act in an agile way to deliver projects faster and more efficiently. These are smaller and independent projects that deliver rapid value.

From reactive to proactive – the CIO must be integrated with the company’s strategy to create business value from his or her team. This position requires a person that is a `two-step ahead` thinker and can develop insights (also known as data-driven decision making) that will bring the company value. Some of the technologies that may be used include business intelligence or machine leaning and artificial intelligence technologies that harvest data and contribute to different company goals (customer satisfaction, higher sales, market branding etc.).

To meet this growing need and prepare for tomorrow’s innovations, many companies are consolidating the chief digital officer or chief data officer (CDO) and CIO roles.

Management capabilities

While being technology-savvy is of course essential, it’s the ability to lead by inspiration to effectively communicate to employees and align with business goals that truly matters. To lead technological groups and managers, CIOs need the soft skills to recognise, attract, inspire and nurture talent.

Team education and buy-in from team members is essential. The CIO must educate their IT, applications and security staff to be customer facing. These customers span the organisation’s corporate departments, as well as the company’s customers. By embracing this mindset, the CIO will be on track to provide a more `service oriented` approach and enhance customer satisfaction.

To monitor progress made, delays, issues, etc., the CIO must create measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the ongoing performance of the teams. This provides the CIO with the information needed to make continuous improvements, as well as to understand and address any weak points in the CIO organisation or its processes.

The CIO role continues to evolve

With a continual stream of changes on the horizon, the role of the CIO is undergoing a metamorphosis. And as additional responsibilities begin to consume an increasing amount of the CIO’s time, the business, its internal and external customers, as well as the CIO will begin to reap currently untold rewards and benefits.

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