CIOs have recently proved their ability to innovate in the face of severe crisis and turmoil. There is no going back to the way things were, as business leaders believe, and companies should continue to reinvent themselves to thrive in a digital-first economy. For CIOs, this means more responsibility, power, and budget. And, of course, there are numerous other obstacles to overcome.
While CIOs face numerous varied challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those challenges enable them to play a stronger leadership role as their companies redefine their future.
Despite the valiant efforts of CIOs and other technology leaders in helping their companies stay in business during the pandemic, according to a 2021 survey by Genpact and the MIT CIO Sloan Symposium, 68% of the 500 CIOs surveyed believe their departments are not fully prepared to assist their organizations in surviving another major business disruption. At the same time, the study sees the post-pandemic CIO role as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because with the correct strategies, these digital leaders can become “co-creators” of new business models.
The question now is: where will CIOs and their businesses place their focus in the future? Here is some advice for CIOs leading IT through the crisis and beyond, based on the findings of research reports and expert perspectives.
Take the initiative to influence the CEO’s agenda
The findings of the Genpact survey reveal that having access to the CEO isn’t enough; businesses also need a seat at the table when it comes to influencing the CEO’s agenda. It’s clear that a CIO needs to report to a high-level executive, ideally the CEO, in order to promote strategic change. Regular CEO meetings, not simply reporting lines, make all the difference for the most successful CIOs when it comes to leveraging combined business and technology skills to impact the company’s strategic business agenda.
Trailblazing tech leaders sense the potential of a new path and have the confidence to take action to make it happen. The co-creators of new business models and future-ready organizations will be CIOs who drive alignment throughout the C-suite and place the organizational focus on creating resilience and innovation. CIOs who fail to do so will see their companies struggle.
Spend in the appropriate technology
According to the report, companies that invested in AI and automation, cloud technologies, digital commerce, and advanced analytics were the most successful in adapting.
Those CIOs who aren’t ready for company upheaval and post-pandemic growth, risk being rendered obsolete. The necessity to be data-driven is something that all tech leaders agree on. CIOs who make the most of the data at their disposal, according to industry experts, generate predictive insights for better decision-making.
Aligning the business and tech teams
With digital transformation becoming the norm, technology being significantly more embedded into the business, and cloud turning IT into opex, technology spending power has begun to shift away from the CIO’s reporting line and toward the rest of the organization.
The CIO’s role has evolved through time from that of a business support function to that of a business facilitator, and finally to that of a business driver. Over time, the CIO will be regarded as a vital master strategist, driving the entire company system.
Given their technological expertise, CIOs are still in the best position to work as a business partner with the CMO, and CFO etc., combining diverse roles and technologies to deliver business value. The key to success is getting to know one’s team and developing great relationships with coworkers and business partners.