Cio Leader

From Order-Taker to Innovator: The Evolving Role of CIO

Jan. 9, 2020
Technology officers should be at the leadership table, not in the basement.

Advanced technology is driving the fourth industrial revolution, and many industrial companies are recognizing that exponential growth in technology will disrupt traditional business operations. In fact, a PwC survey on CEOs revealed that 64% acknowledge their businesses will be disrupted by changes in technology over the next five years, but 66% of companies say their leadership does not have a clear vision for their digital future. This brings a unique opportunity for industrial CIOs to step up, take a seat at the table, and help drive companies to embrace, adapt and adopt this digital transformation.

Prior to the digital disruption, CIOs and their department were typically known as order takers and service providers. IT and business interaction were usually an afterthought by companies, and the IT services that were provided were primarily seen as commodities. But times have changed.

IT organizations need to evolve from a centralized authority into an orchestrator of business services, and that is altering the role of CIOs to strive to become enablers and even innovators. This is all in hopes that IT will drive the adoption of technology across the business, implement leading edge technology with an acceptable level of risk and be responsible for return on technology investments.

The bottom line is that technology is moving fast and it’s affecting different parts of an organization. It’s more critical now than ever for CIOs to move quickly and not get left behind. Here are three areas that CIOs need to focus on to step away from just being the “IT guy.”

1. Technology

The role of an IT organization is how an enterprise uses its IT function to accomplish its overarching business goals. This role ranges anywhere from a low-cost support function to one that is driving the business to operate in different ways. Historically, this role has fallen on the support function side of the spectrum; however, CIOs need to understand that digital disruption is changing the traditional role of IT.

This digital disruption is causing business strategies to shift and, as a result, the role of IT is also beginning to shift. The convergence of IT and operational technology (OT) are forcing companies to rethink how IT supports the business. Companies who strive to be digital champions are beginning to view IT as an enabler and, in some cases, at the forefront of innovation. IT organizations must be prepared to play this new role by upskilling people, updating legacy process and leveraging new technologies.

2. Operations

As we start seeing a blur between IT and OT, operations are also changing and becoming more tech-driven. Technology is increasing the demand on traditional IT capabilities like infrastructure while also providing new opportunities for IT to empower decision-making through data analytics and artificial intelligence. All of these elements are what’s driving organizations to create a digital enterprise that leverages technology to develop or further their competitive stance in the marketplace. CIOs should be in the forefront of providing the technology backbone to enable this vision, coupled with a robust framework and infrastructure.

3. Workforce

As the fourth industrial revolution is changing business models and operations within an organization, the approach to workforce also needs to evolve to stay on par with the changing roles of IT.

Within the CIO’s department itself, the types of skills and techniques needed are changing. Modern CIOs should employ people who understand technology fundamentals in the market today such as robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, and data science to lay the foundation for enhanced customer experiences, efficiency gains, and financial benefit realization.

Within the broader organization, there will be an increased demand for skilled workers who can program, configure, and operate complex machinery while making quick decisions to respond to shifts in production lines, designs, and input from a range of partners. CIOs will also need to be at the table when it comes to discussing digital upskilling as they will be influential in creating and designing this evolving workforce.

There’s no escaping the fact that the traditional role of a CIO is changing rapidly as companies today are transforming. CIOs need to evolve with this shift or they will get left behind. Those who do will be presented with a tremendous opportunity to sit at various tables and be involved in making key business decisions. It’s about time that CIOs stop taking orders. 

Bryan Goodgion is a director at PWC.

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