The future runs through the office of the CIO. For years considered a minor player in the C-suite, CIOs now find themselves thrust onto the center stage of one of the most profound business transformations in history. Indeed, it could be argued that, in many respects, with technology so important to an organization’s continuing viability and success, no other business executive holds more responsibility for the future of an organization than the CIO.
“The role of the CIO is changing now,” says Bask Iyer, CIO, VMware and Dell Technologies. “It is evolving and growing larger as the importance of information grows.”
Minimizing Impact. Driving Transformation.
The central issue is that technology is blending into the mainstream as every organization needs to integrate technology, software, and applications into every aspect of the business in order to compete in this digital age. It’s almost a cliché to say that cloud is the great disruptor, but the reality is that all organizations, sooner or later, are going to operate across both private and public clouds. And CIOs, as the executives charged with their organizations’ technology systems, are expected to guide this digital transformation of every aspect of their business.
But their role is complicated by another set of responsibilities. While tasked with driving business transformation, CIOs are also expected to minimize the impact of these changes on their organizations and keep the trains running.
A delicate balance of these two responsibilities is changing the role of the CIO, just as it is changing the fundamentals of what it means to do business in the 21st century.
This duality means that CIOs have had to expand their traditional focus beyond operational efficiency and risk mitigation. Traditionally, the CIO’s role was almost entirely operational, with the primary responsibilities as basic as keeping the email system running, the network up, and office application and equipment cycles refreshed. The focus was primarily internal.
But now, businesses are dealing with a new set of external competitors and security threats. Organizations cannot afford to ignore the digital curve that will leave them vulnerable to both. Companies need more agile, cost-efficient networking structures that will allow them to operate at the new speed of business.
A Global Mindset
To help their organizations successfully navigate their way through these challenges, CIOs “must become advocates for a culture of IT evolution. They need to take big risks,” Iyer says, even when the way forward or the immediate business value is not always clear.
To drive the business forward despite this uncertainty, CIOs must have the correct mindset to succeed. That means understanding their organization’s overall business strategy and how to approach each task innovatively.
The CIO is the right person to lead this culture change because the revolution is happening squarely within information technology.
“CIOs understand trends and speak business lingo,” says Iyer. “They mingle with venture capitalists and, especially in Silicon Valley, are plugged into start-ups.” Due to their budgeting responsibilities, CIOs also tend to be savvy with financials and “tend to have the most global mindset,” Iyer says, as they actively nurture careers and manage hundreds to thousands of people around the globe.
Every Company Is a Technology Company
All of this expertise and experience comes to bear as CIOs today are on the cusp of a trend. “Every company is becoming a technology company,” says Iyer. And the the key to success in this brave new world is for CIOs to help their organizations transform digitally.
“People say, ‘IT as a function,’ or, ‘IT as a service.’” The reality, Iyer says, “is that technology is the business.”
And to Iyer, this means CIOs have the unique opportunity to engineer the culture of their organizations in addition to the business innovation, as the two necessarily go hand-in-hand.
The key to culture change in technology is using digital transformation to transform the way the world is now, Iyer believes. CIOs have the power to make it more sustainable, more inclusive, more personally healthful, creative, and productive. CIOs are the best to lead this dual transformation, according to Iyer, because only they are uniquely positioned to match the technology transformation to the business.
To ensure success of these efforts and, ultimately, the future of their organizations, CIOs should “keep their heads in the cloud,” Iyer concludes. “But few enterprises can make this business transformation without deep concerns for security, privacy, and minimizing disruption. The primary question for a CIO should always be, ‘How do you help transition to this hybrid cloud world?’”
It is a question that CIOs everywhere are wrestling with. And by making meaningful changes to answer it, they drive the business transformation that is changing both the tools and the culture of their organizations.