5 Things CIOs Must Do Immediately to Stay Relevant in Today's Environment

In most organizations today, CIOs are being asked to define in plain terms disruptive trends like IoT, Cloud, Big Data, analytics and others. CIOs are also expected to figure out what these trends mean to their organizations and go the last mile of transforming these inevitabilities into real business opportunities.

This is a new role for CIOs, who had previously just been in charge of managing IT and day-to-day operations. The CIO and his or her team are no longer the “back office.” Businesses assume a lot more from IT today, and the CIO is expected to add commercial value to their organization. In fact, the CIO is at the heart of this digital transformation.

When a CMO is being pressured by technology-empowered customers–whose knowledge of the company’s products might exceed their own–digital business engagement becomes the CMO’s main strategic imperative. If the company doesn’t adopt appropriate digital tools, chances are customers will leave. In this scenario, the CMO has a choice: turn to the CIO, or get external help.

Let’s look at the top 5 things today’s CIO must start doing immediately to continue being relevant to the modern organization:

#5: Accept and Own

The debate over whether today’s successful organization needs to have a solid digital strategy is gone, so accept it, own it, and drive it.

Who better than the CIO knows how to bridge the silos in their organization’s functional departments, create seamless digital touchpoints, and eventually, build an omnichannel experience that delivers a consistent, world-class customer engagement platform?

If you have a solid information and communication technology strategy that details how to efficiently use current technologies, go ahead and own the digital strategy. It starts and ends with the customer–how else can the enterprise experience top-line growth?

#4: Have an Open Mind

CIOs must take a hard look at how effective their business unit is. What is the CMO’s objectives? How do those objectives line up with Finance? It’s not all about cutting costs! The CFO will be convinced if sustainable growth and profitability patterns are proven.

The CIO’s job is more than pushing EDM campaigns, or requesting discounts for IT projects. The CIO must understand, align and drive the realization of the big picture in every strategic function of the organization. In a recent report, the Economist found just 37 percent of CIOs consider incorporating new technologies in their business a “high priority.” While being risk-adverse is not always bad, it can severely impact innovation.

#3: Create “Business Engineers”

CIOs must find advocates for change inside their organizations. That process begins inside the IT department, but if the CIO looks hard enough, they’ll no doubt find additional change agents across the business. For transformation to happen, the CIO must engage constituents across the company, changing the mindsets of not only their direct reports, but regional offices overseas. It’s time to create “business engineers,” who can help make that transformation a reality.

#2: Consider an Advisory Board

Gary Wimberly, the CIO of Express Scripts (the 20th-largest company on the Fortune 500) is a strong advocate for having trusted advisors who are capable of enhancing throughput and helping the CIO improve the rate of innovation. Wimberly believes his advisory board helped Express Scripts lower the cost of IT across the board.

CIOs must choose their trusted advisors carefully, and evaluate those relationships regularly. In research done by CIO magazine, 46 percent of CIOs said they considered their vendors truly strategic partners–defined as “an important vendor that has gone beyond effective delivery of systems and services to become a consistently transparent, responsive and trusted collaborator.” It’s important for CIOs to build an advisory board who they can rely on to support them in realizing their vision, while also re-electing when necessary.

So go ahead and elect your “advisory board” who you can always rely on to support you in realizing your vision, but re-elect when necessary.

#1: Believe in Yourself

Change is inevitable, and if not managed well, the results could be catastrophic. Who can understand and create value from a company’s IT investments if not the CIO? The company can talk about the digital transformation, and draw their customers’ digital journey all they want, but the only person capable of acting on the digital business and driving disruptive change is the CIO.

In his book “CIO Leading Change: in the digital economy,” Kapil Dev Singh believes only the CIO can “crystallize the perspectives, thoughts and practical frameworks related to the digital initiatives.”

In a white paper released by Earnst & Young, researchers say they believe CIOs are the most capable to handle digital change–and why not? IT sits at the heart of many business units, from marketing and HR to supply chain management, and is uniquely positioned to lead change inside the organization.

At the 2015 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Middle East on May 19-21 in Dubai, CIOs will learn how to transform and adapt to the changing world around them and how to remain not only relevant, but an essential asset to their organization. I and a number of my peers have built a track record in helping CIOs and organizations transform. Drop by and have a chat with the Avaya team.