The Rise of the Next-Gen CIO

An outlook on the changing role of the chief information officer in the digital age.

Dan Albright

The role of the chief information officer (CIO) has changed dramatically since the start of the digital age, and in 2019 it will become even more critical for CIOs to focus on imperatives that effectively transform their role. Prior to the influx of extraordinary technological advances, the CIO was often viewed as a back-office operative whose role consisted of ensuring various data pipes were connected and averting the business from downtime and disaster.

Cut to the digital age where incredible technological advancements are quickly transforming the world and posing threats to established business practices, making a new CIO centralized and strategically placed in the business hierarchy.

Today, new developments in processes and algorithms have quickly infiltrated new apps, devices and platforms, parsing data at an incredible speed. This torrent of data and information brings with it a wealth of untapped opportunities and harnessing them into actionable insights is a key differentiator for businesses to gain a competitive edge in the market – and the role of the CIO has changed in step. The modus operandi of the Next Generation CIO is now crucial for companies to thrive.

The following are seven key areas where CIOs should focus efforts in order to drive future success.

Focus on Integrated Services

In the digital age, a CIO’s success is measured only by what they build, but also by the services they integrate. There is a clear shift from one who buys and manages fixed assets to one who manages services (e.g., infrastructure, applications and security). Greater focus on service management requires leveraging the shared services model, where possible.

Create New Hybrid Functions

Today’s fluid business ecosystem calls for cross-functional experiences and versatile capabilities. The CIO role should therefore be heavily connected with global services functions like marketing, HR, finance, procurement, sales order management and supply chain for optimal organizational agility. Incumbents need to be chosen from a non-traditional skill-pool that goes beyond information technology expertise.

Build Strong C-level Relationships

The success of this new role hinges on strong C-level relationships. Engaging beyond the conventional IT network and maintaining a close working relationship with the CFO is not enough. Evolving new partnerships with the chief marketing officer, CEO and COO is key.

Align your Digital Strategy

The CIO is going to be responsible for hiring a CDO (chief digital officer). Many leading companies are starting to introduce the role of CDO as an orchestrator of digital innovations. The CDO has the mission to collect, feed and grow disruptive products and services. In concert with a CIO, this role can help lead the transition into new digitally-enabled opportunities that unlock the power of algorithms and automated, intelligent workflows.

Remove Silos

The legacy, siloed IT organization will virtually disappear. In its place, technology experts will work hand-in-hand with the business to drive innovation. The clear shift to data-driven processes means that business and technology must work closely together to craft use cases and differentiated processes.

Calibrate the Balance

The importance of network effects continues to be amplified in several areas of today’s digital business landscape. To harness this dynamic, organizations should leverage digital assets to create new interactions with consumers, partners and employees, making themselves incredibly easy to do business with.

Combine Standardization with Decentralization

Perhaps the single most powerful step CIOs can take is to free an organization’s data from its applications. By creating a single “system of record” for data, applications and web services can act as consumers of data, dramatically reducing the time required to stitch together new business use cases.