As technology evolves, speculation grows around whether or not the CIO role we know today will still exist 10 years from now. Much of it has to do with perceptions and what role CIOs do or do not play in advancing an organization’s overall mission.
Unlike in the past, today’s CIO influences and impacts every part of a business. Therefore, companies want someone who understands both the technology landscape and the business implications of technology. But some of today’s CIOs may be more versed in technology and not entrenched enough in the business side of things.
“The CIO role needs to become one that is more a combination of technology and marketing, where the CIO has a seat at the table when the organization is deciding how to drive sales or increase demand or awareness of a product,” Patel said.
The good news is, CIOs who understand the business side of the equation and can employ marketing strategies along the way can bring added value to the organization, such as using technology strategically to help an organization connect better with its audience and building lasting relationships with customers.
SAP Europe president Franck Cohen, speaking recently with CIO magazine, agreed that CIOs “may become obsolete” in the not too distant future.
Cohen said he sees a quarter of large enterprises in the European Union appointing chief digital officers (CDOs) and assigning them a variety of tasks, not all of which involve technology. Some are taking charge of digital transformation programs from start to finish, for example, while others are setting strategy and then handing it off to a CIO.
“Either the CIO becomes the one who develops the strategy for their companies, extending their role to being chief of the information systems, or they will become obsolete,” Cohen said.
CIOs that do not embrace transformation, he said, will just be “keeping the lights on.”
Another benefit of a potential CIO evolution, said Patel, is that it may help members of an organization finally view the IT organization as a profit center rather than strictly a cost center.
“CIOs can help drive a dialog that shifts the focus from what IT is going to cost then to what it can help companies gain, such as long-term profits from lifetime customers,” he said.
In addition to driving product demand and strategy, tomorrow’s CIO must also be agile and use technology to better respond to customer needs. For example, a CIO could use a poor customer review posted online to spark an investigation into a potential issue – such as an operational bottleneck – and then use technology to help track and improve performance in that area.
Finally, Patel suggests CIOs who wish to evolve strive to constantly educate themselves on new technologies, even if the business application is not immediately clear at first.
“It’s all about understanding what the customer is doing and what’s relevant for them,” he said. “The business application may not exist right away, but it may become obvious later, and a CIO that is already educated on that technology will be one step ahead.”