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CIO Today vs. CIO Tomorrow: What CIOs Need to Know

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The digital era has certainly changed the way we live, work and communicate with one another. How will it affect the CIO today? And what can CIOs do to keep up? 

In this article, we’ll explore how business leaders can prepare for the digital future and stay relevant as their role evolves.


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Challenges Facing the CIO Today

Yesterday’s CIO was responsible for managing IT operations.

The CIO of today and tomorrow, however, must radically rethink their position and their job role.

Here are just a few challenges that CIOs are facing in the modern era:

The role of the CIO is evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly digital world

The role of the CIO is no longer just about IT infrastructure. 

It’s about all facets of the business, including:

  • Customer experience
  • Emerging technology
  • Revenue growth
  • The tech needs of LOB executives
  • Business strategy

The last point on this list is one of the most important skills for any CIO – being able to understand how technology and the business side of the organization intersect. This includes understanding the market, customer insight, the technical side of the business, and how to make the decisions for the future. 

In short, CIOs must learn to wear multiple hats, which brings us to the next biggest challenge faced by CIOs:

CIOs must be able to play multiple roles in their organizations

Not only do CIOs need to be IT leaders and IT decision makers, they should also be working with other business teams to ensure IT aligns with the goals of each business unit. To that end, CIOs must also be able to communicate effectively with their peers and the broader IT community.

Among other things, this means that CIOs today must build relationships with other areas of the business.

It also means that CIOs will need a new set of business skills, not just technical IT skills.

For technically-minded professionals, these new skills requirements may be challenging. Yet, as we’ll see below, staying relevant depends on expanding one’s skill set and leaving one’s “comfort zone.”

Change is the new constant in the modern enterprise

One of the biggest challenges for IT leaders today is making the transition from being Chief Information Officer (CIO) today to being the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) tomorrow. 

After all, every day, new business processes, new technologies, and new strategies emerge – and they are changing the way we do business. 

The CIO is at the forefront of this change, and must be able to:

Today’s CIO, in short, must learn to not only adopt new technology and processes, as mentioned above, they must be able to do it at speed.

How CIOs Can Stay Relevant and Effective: 3 Tips

Here are a few ways CIOs can stay effective in the years ahead:

1. Learn skills aside from IT

As mentioned above, the CIO of today and tomorrow will need to learn skills aside from IT management, such as:

  • Leadership skills
  • Business and strategic skills
  • Creative skills
  • People management skills
  • Soft skills

One good way to meet this challenge is to take certification programs and courses, such as digital adoption certification programs and leadership programs.

2. Embrace innovation and stay ahead of the competition

Technically-oriented CIOs may not feel that they are creative, but that doesn’t mean they can’t instill innovation into the workplace.

Since digital innovation will drive the economy for the foreseeable future, CIOs need to proactively invest in:

  • Innovative products and ideas
  • New ways of working
  • A culture that prioritizes innovation and creativity

In short, “thinking outside the box” must be embraced, not only by CIOs, but also by the entire workplace.

Also, it is crucial for CIOs to personally track tech trends, business trends, and customer trends.

As an IT operations manager, it’s not always necessary to track emerging technology or stay tuned to the marketplace.

Yet, as we have already seen, the CIO must lead business initiatives, so they must themselves learn to become forward-thinking and innovative.

3. Pursue leadership opportunities

The fact is that the structure of the enterprise is changing and if CIOs don’t adopt a leadership role, someone else will.

To this end, it is crucial to partner with other members of the C-suite, as mentioned above.

Gartner, for instance, says that CIOs must have a few key conversations with:

  • CFOs, who are concerned with the organization’s balance sheet and the finances associated with IT investments
  • CMOs, who want to leverage the data to improve the customer experience and drive better outcomes for marketing and sales
  • CEOs, who report to boards of directors and, of course, make executive decisions around digital initiatives
  • CHROs, who are concerned with topics such as future-proofing the workforce and maintaining a positive workplace climate during uncertain times

Having these conversations can greatly facilitate buy-in for key digital initiatives and open the door to new leadership opportunities.

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