Technology leaders and digital business experts — Mike Gregoire, Peter Hinssen and Sonja Chirico Indrebø — discuss the unique opportunity for CIOs to become strategic leaders.
As the digital revolution has swept through business, perceptions about IT have shifted dramatically. No longer is it seen merely as a back office function; its importance in driving company-wide objectives is being recognized throughout the organization.
At Norwegian energy company Statoil, CIO Sonja Chirico Indrebø has witnessed “a big change.” IT used to be linked to business support, ensuring the company had effective ERP, HR systems and so on, she says. “But in recent years we’ve become much more connected to Statoil’s value chain and its business processes.”
With the rest of the business now more engaged in technology than ever before, CIOs need to prove their unique ability to lead the organization through a rapidly evolving digital landscape. “In a world where technology has become normal, CIOs should be the rock stars of organizations,” says business author and digital visionary Peter Hinssen. Digital disruption presents the CIO with a once-in-a-career opportunity to stake their position as ‘chief navigator,’ best placed to guide the business through that transformative journey.
In order for the CIO to reshape the role, their relationship with the rest of the leadership team must also be redefined. As CEO of IT management software company CA Technologies, Mike Gregoire, explains: In the past CEOs were cautious of over-spending on IT and always pushing their CIO to do “more with less.” Now, CEOs and other CXOs can no longer wait for the annual budgeting process to outline future requirements – instead, they need to be regularly communicating software demands directly to their CIO, in order to create applications in days or weeks, not months or years.
As Gregoire observes, after decades of reducing or outsourcing IT expertise, companies across all industries are now staffing up to ensure they have the core technology competencies in-house that are now so vital to success. Not to do so is a career-limiting choice, he argues. “CIOs who don’t understand that are usually pushed aside because they’re not critical to the business.” The executive management team has begun demanding IT that drives relationships with customers and enhances the business. CIOs who aren’t able to deliver this will inevitably sit “on the outside a management team, not on the inside,” warns Gregoire.
Touching the business
With the importance and impact of technology being felt across the entire organization, IT’s role is now about building relationships across the business, “connecting people and ideas in new ways,” says Indrebø. “We touch every part of the business,” she says.
Within this digital business landscape, it is vital that the CIO can demonstrate their critical role in maximizing the company’s relationship with the customer, exploiting the potential of big data, and enabling digital innovation across all areas of the organization, advises CA’s Gregoire. This new context — in which digitization is seen as critical to success — is transforming technology into a “fundamental strategic weapon,” agrees Hinssen, and enabling the CIO’s role to evolve from operational to a far more strategic one.
• Illustration: Studio Tonne