2019 trends: CIO role gaining prominence as technology solidifies importance
Technology is demanding. Its implementation and management requires a balancing act, where businesses can remain up an running while innovating.
Technology's ready availability has distributed sole responsibility away from chief information officers and transitioned it to other line of business managers. Marketing, sales and HR are just some of the many departments taking charge of their technology.
CIOs and other IT decision makers are left to lead enterprisewide technology strategy and decision making. It is not a small undertaking, given the demands from internal and external customers to maintain a rapid pace of innovation.
But unlike in years past, CIOs are making headway in the C-suite, influencing technology and business strategy as the importance of IT is understood. As technology's role is increasing, the role of the CIO is maturing. The coming year will see more investment into IT and an emphasis of technology's ability to make business bottom line goals possible.
Here are key trends showing the increased role of CIOs and technology in the business:
Grounding technology in customer value
Motivated by the success other organizations are realizing, executive leadership is changing its approach to technology.
Leaders grew up in a waterfall era and some think technology is about tools, said George Spafford, Sr. Director Analyst at Gartner, in an interview with CIO Dive.
But industry has shifted toward agile methodologies, pivoting from a more linear approach to development.
A key shift for changing executive leadership's often dated mindset is to "ground everything in customer value," Spafford said.
The customer, whether internal or external, is the best person to articulate customer value, he said. Holding true to their requests — avoiding the pitfalls of obsessing over tools and process — will help companies stay true to their vision.
Leading companies approach technology with the end user or customer in mind. While difficult to execute, it is a key differentiator in competition. Small improvements can have a big impact on end-user reception.
Take baggage handling at American Airlines. The company wove AI into its processes to help station managers understand which bags to address first, remediating bottlenecks. Though a small project, it had a direct impact on how customers interact with the airline.
As technology takes a leading role in companies across sectors, the key is to implement changes that are politically friendly, providing acceptable value and risk. Focusing on attitudes, behaviors and skills while keeping the customer in mind will help court executive leadership to side with technology, not shirking the investment.
Turning IT into a profit center
Enterprise technology has morphed from a roadblock into an enabler. But as the New Year rises, IT also needs to complete its transformation from a cost center into a profit generator.
Central to digital transformation, IT can serve as a creator or key collaborator on new products, services, business models and ways of thinking, according Suja Chandrasekaran, CIO of Kimberly-Clark, speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida in October.
IT's historic reputation of slow processes and dusty stacks have obscured its role in the digital transformation era: Technology helps get work done. Empowered CIOs serve as brand ambassadors for technology, showing executive leadership the positive impact it can have on projects and meeting business outcomes.
Technology's role in a business cannot change, however, without a savvy CIO. It is crucial for technology leaders to be something other than just a technologist, said Michael Guggemos, CIO of Insight, in an interview with CIO Dive.
Sure, CIOs have to prove themselves as great technologists, especially when few executives outside IT understand enterprise technology from security through usability.
CIOs have to be able to translate IT's value to the C-suite to make a difference outside the technology layer, Guggemos said.
Security can make or break a company
A feverish hype swirled around privacy and compliance in 2018, brought on by the arrival of GDPR. But more than six months after its enactment, the world still awaits the promised heavy fines.
Privacy concerns caused cybersecurity obsessions to take a back seat last year. But major data breaches highlighted risks associated with data collection. Customers have much privacy to lose if companies have data exposed, as was seen with Marriott's breach.
Motivated by C-suite investment and concern, focus on cybersecurity will come to the fore again in 2019.
There is a quite clear recognition that "technology is about business," said Edna Conway, chief security officer, global value chain at Cisco, in an interview with CIO Dive.
Technology has become part of how business operate, with security built in, Conway said. The CIO is now in a position to make and source the materials that run a business.
In the coming year, attacks with a supply chain focus will work to impact function, which means equipment damage, Conway said. IT will serve as the path for targeting physical equipment.
Such threats will work to bring the C-suite together. Responsibility will fall to the company leaders like the CEO, not only those in charge of technology operations.
The rise of the agile enterprise
Industry has focused on agile for quite some time, particularly as the approach to projects has changed. But there is a key difference between project agility and enterprise agility, said Murat Bicak, SVP of strategy at the Project Management Institute, in an interview with CIO Dive.
Industry has begun to focus on enterprise agility because of the advances in technology with sectors seeing the impact of software in their businesses. Such a transition has motivated a change in software delivery, enveloping businesses in agile processes.
Weaving software into a business is a key source of value, which is directly connected to digital transformation, Bicak said.
Even with software's newfound prominence, businesses are still struggling with digital transformation. Legacy organizations are not set up to run efficiently and effectively because they are process driven. The root of the problem is debt: "It's technical debt, it's people debt, it's process debt," Bicak said.
That's where the CIO comes in. Decades of dated processes are crippling to innovation, so technology leaders have to help organizations rethink operations. CIOs are in the best position to enable change because they understand not only how technology operates, but how it could operate if adopted in an adaptive way.
With clear leadership, agility can blossom from serving as part of projects to part of enterprise operations, paving way for fluid digital transformation along the way.
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