It may take some time, but all CIOs will eventually look back on their pre-pandemic strategies and marvel at how much their approach to the role has changed.
In fact, strategies are so different that by 2024, four in five CIOs will cite redesigning their business with a modular strategy among the top reasons for accelerated business performance. Those companies not yet embracing new ways of doing business will quickly need to catch up.
New times also call for new CIO traits. That's because the playbook that led to CIO successes prior to 2020 has lost its accuracy for running a digitally-accelerated organization in a rapidly changing world, said Apoorva Chhabra, principal analyst at Gartner, speaking at the virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Tuesday.
"What got you here won't take you far," said Chhabra.
What comes next for CIOs seeking to stand out is a focus on what's new, emulating the successes of their peers with freedom to borrow strategies from other industries as well. The leading CIOs of the post-pandemic era will build teams that are resilient to adversity, and can see digital strategies as a means to an end, rather than their sole objective.
These traits will point IT leadership toward what businesses expect of them: to help companies gain back some of the growth sidelined by the pandemic. Execs will use a handful of tools at their disposal to execute on broader strategies, from hyper automation to cloud-native platforms and composable applications.
CIOs must stoke experimentation and iteration with these new elements in their strategies. They are called to become "neophiliacs," in their obsession with novelty, according to Chhabra. "Effective digital leaders have this deep desire to create new experiences for themselves," she said.
CIOs have the budget to start iterating on those tools, with IT budgets headed for their largest increase in a decade, Gartner projects. IT budgets will see a 3.6% increase in IT spend for 2022, according to a global survey of 2,387 CIO and technology executives.
In assessing what's out there, CIOS need to take their cues from what's already working, relying on best practices to see where it fits with digital aspirations.
One example of the "invent, but also copy" playbook is Amazon's Kindle strategy, Chhabra said. While e-readers weren't invented by Amazon, the company was able to find a unique design and concept, taking its spin on the product and bringing it to market.
But to find valuable, replicable strategies, leaders should also look beyond what their industry peers are doing.
"Do you think Nike cares about industry boundaries when it is using wellness data, or Apple going into the home security [space] or Amazon exploring healthcare services?" Effective leaders don't make their digital plans based solely on what they know of their own industry, Chhabra said. "Instead, force yourself to think, to question, is that enough?"