Reinventing the Chief Information Officer

What does it mean to be a chief information officer? More than ever, businesses are relying on their CIOs to deliver digital transformation at scale – and that means understanding the vast and ever-changing landscape of technologies.

That’s the word from Foundry’s 22nd CIO Survey, where a majority of the 837 respondents, 77%, said their role was elevated due to the economic climate, making them one of the most visible change agents in their organization. The top three activities they plan to focus on over the next three years are business innovations. Re-engineering of business processes; and updating infrastructure and applications.

Most CIOs (85%) believe their role is more digital and innovation-oriented. Another 70% expect their involvement in cybersecurity to increase in the next year, and just over half (55%) also anticipate increased involvement in data analytics, data privacy/compliance, and AI/machine learning.

The CIO role now requires greater immersion, inspiration and understanding – both in technology and the business. “The role of the CIO is rapidly becoming a technical hands-on and an engine of change for the business,” said Fletcher Previn, CCCC’s CIO, in an interview at the company’s New York offices. “Many companies are asking less of a CIO generalist and more of an IT professional on how to communicate the technology the business is trying to do.

This means leading with technical knowledge, as well as leading with business knowledge. 68% of IT leaders say they are currently responsible for generating revenue, up from 65% a year ago. While cybersecurity was the top business and technology priority last year, this year there was “a shift toward greater efficiency,” according to the Foundry survey’s authors. Increasing operational efficiency is the top business motivation cited by 45%. Transforming existing business processes through strategies such as automation and integration is the third-tier objective, cited by 38% of respondents.

Security and risk management technologies are still expected to drive the largest IT investment in 2023, cited by 38% of IT leaders. IT leaders cited data and business analytics (34%), updating applications and legacy systems (28%) and machine learning or artificial intelligence (26%) as other investment targets.

Previn predicts that CIOs will play a significant role in supporting hybrid workplaces, with design roles to improve workplace technology as well as enterprise enterprise systems. “It’s a very servant role,” he said. “We serve those who serve others. I’m here to empower everyone to do the best work of their lives. People spend every minute struggling with something they’re hired to do to distract them. Our job is to find those experiences, remove conflicts from the environment and enable people to do their best work.

In the field of enterprise technology, design thinking “was a really new concept for people, first thinking from the lens of the experience and the second solution,” says Previn. “Before, we just accepted that things were difficult to work with – a bad bad experience. Now people come into work and think, ‘You know who I am, you know what my job is, and people are going to pay billions of dollars for this job.’ They have to be better than this experience, it has to be the best experience of my life. That’s easy to say and hard to do, but that’s the direction the CIO’s career is headed. Surrounding people with things they don’t even know they need and enabling hybrid work will be a very significant set of IT challenges that need to be addressed – across security, remote access, workflows and culture.”

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