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Is the role of the CIO obsolete in the digital world?

Role of the CIO

Chief Information Officer (CIO) has been coined in 1981 when information was purely used in computer systems and seen as a requirement to support a company's goals. In today's digital age, information is an "asset" and Digitalisation is what every enterprise is driving towards.

Business leaders are getting more technology savvy and are now talking about technology solutions instead of requirements causing sometimes the IT landscape to become more heterogeneous, disconnected and even redundant. Spend is also getting bigger and bigger outside IT; Marketing Departments, Communication Departments, Product Development departments and where it exist Digital offices are investing hugely in technology outside traditional IT landscapes. So what is the role of the CIO (here CIO is the Chief Information Officer and the information Technology organisation as a whole) in this digital world, especially in the transformation towards Digital excellence? (to know more about Digital excellence, you can check my previous blog)

Is the role of the CIO obsolete?.........absolutely NOT!!

It should and must be accepted that other stakeholders now need digital technology for their internal and external programs and services, however there is no one better positioned than the CIO to orchestrate both worlds.


1- The CIO typically has longest and deepest experience of delivering technology to either keep the company running efficiently, supporting the company to grow and of course contribute to the innovation within the company. An experience that is required for any digital transformation program within or outside the enterprise walls, as an implementation lead or a consultative coach for such programs.

2- The CIO has delivered technology during various market and business conditions, providing the CIO with a key skill to plan digitalisation strategies to deal with such weathers and conditions.

3- The CIO has the outsourcing and unsourcing experience and has extensive experience on when to build solutions, when to buy them and of course when to re-use. This gives the CIO the edge on other CxOs in terms of getting the best, scalable and cost efficient digital solutions.

4- The CIO has been transforming IT for the last 30 years hence the CIO role as a moderniser of technology is a proven record. In addition, the CIO is one of the first Digital Prophets (for more details on Digital Consumer Personas, you can check my previous blog) making the CIO the best ambassador for digital programs.

5- The CIO has the extensive experience in serving and supporting your enterprise's first and most loyal Digital Consumers- your employees!! Any digital transformation programs only success not only in the implementation but also to have a strong digital consumer support ecosystem afterwards (for more details, check the Digital Consumer Support Ecosystem blog). The CIO therefore is already there for you to deliver!

6- The CIO currently has in the IT organisation the closest set of skills to the required digital skills (see the "talent in the digital age" blog for more details) allowing your enterprise to initiate the digital programs quickly. Any other organisation will require to build such a talent and skills are in high demand and shortage of availability.

All of the above is great place to be for the CIO, however, to adapt to a rapidly changing market, the CIO must move to an operating model that puts the consumer at the center of design, harness data to deliver personalised experiences and optimise operations based on consumer journeys to respond to the dynamic and constant change of consumer demands and digital innovation.

Finally, the CIO cannot do it alone. CIO will be redundant if the scope stays pure Information Technology. CIO now has to involve and orchestrate technology strategy and investment with the CMO, CFO, CEO and COO in the Digital transformation and make them part of it. The CIO takes then the role of the coach and the leader.

For the next 100 days, ensure that the CIO and the IT organisation's vision and mission are reviewed, enhanced and communicated to the organisation based on the above to re-position CIO as the go-to place to drive, coach and lead digital transformation programs. Do not jump on all opportunities at once. Strategically choose one and excel in delivery and eventually all other stakeholders will want you for their initiatives.


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