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Why CIOs should be business rock stars

Kenny MacIver — June 2015

Technology has become a strategic weapon for business, says Peter Hinssen. And CIOs need to grasp the opportunity to guide business direction.

In a world where most businesses regard digitalization as critical to their success — or even survival — the CIO’s role as a strategic leader should be in the ascendancy. But, surprisingly, that is by no means the case, observes business author and digital market-watcher Peter Hinssen. And he argues that CIOs need to act now to grab what is a once-in-a-career opportunity before it slips away.

“Technology has become a fundamental strategic weapon for any organization,” he says. “So CIOs should be the superstars, the rock stars of organizations.” Outside of a few sectors such as media and entertainment, though, they are rarely regarded in such esteem, he says. Now, with businesses viewing the application of digital technology as the way to maximize their relationship with customers, build a data-driven organization and support fundamental shifts in business models and markets, they should be looking to their CIOs to take a strong leadership position, Hinssen argues.

“This is the time for the CIO to assume the leadership role in rethinking strategic business options.”

But he observes that many CIOs have been slow to grasp the opportunity. “This is not the time to be dormant,” he says. “This is the time for the CIO to assume that leadership role in rethinking strategic business options — where technology becomes a huge asset for companies.”

That has not always been evident in recent years. In some instances, CIOs have actually struggled to maintain their relevance, says Hinssen, highlighting the rise of chief marketing officers (CMOs) as significant IT budget-holders.

“If you look at what happened with marketing, all of a sudden CMOs realized that their world was shifting radically and [they could] experiment with new technologies — digital, big data, [analytics for] understanding customer behavior, and so have a big chunk of a technology budget,” says Hinssen.
Unfreezing the corporation

Looking forward, he predicts that there will be little place for CIOs who adopt a passive position in the face of disruptive business models. “The next five years will be a huge challenge for organizations as they seek to unfreeze their structures, to become fluid, to rethink their traditional hierarchies,” he says.

“So there’s a huge opportunity there: to understand how to actually build a data-driven organization, to leverage the power of knowledge in a networked business, to make a company really agile and fluid. That’s a huge opportunity for a company — and for its CIO.”

• Peter Hinssen’s new book, The Network Always Wins, is out now.

First published
June 2015
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About: Peter Hinssen
An entrepreneur, writer and business school lecturer, Peter Hinssen advises organizations on the society-wide impact of networked digital technologies. A partner at disruptive innovation consultancy nexxworks, he is the author of ‘The New Normal’ and ‘The Network Always Wins.’

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