Digital transformation is leading to new CIO challenges as roles and responsibilities shift in the c-suite.
The CIO role is changing.
How the business leverages technology is just as important as where and when; and CIOs are feeling the pressure of these decisions.
According to Spiceworks, more than 40% of IT professionals feel burnt-out in their current positions and are looking to achieve better work-life balance. If the teams under CIOs are feeling overwhelmed, how much more so is the leader?
Much of the stress comes from working to meet the shifting expectations.
IT teams favor a nearly even split between general IT management (27%), security (23%), and networking (22%). However, CIOs report that the ideal balance is a mix of working on both the business side (56%) and the IT side (44%).
In fact, Gartner found that more than 84% of CIOs report taking on responsibilities outside of IT.
With CIOs taking on more responsibility and looking to stretch their influence, yet IT teams reporting a strict focus on IT related functions, it is easy to see why CIOs are feeling stretched.
According to ZDNet, the “expectation now is that the CIO should be able to take a board seat and direct the future of the company with even more effectiveness than the rest of the board, because of their understanding of where and how new emerging technology can take the company into new markets.”
CIO Challenge #1: Embrace Your Role as a Change Leader in the Business
Historically, the "business" and IT were separate entities.
The business needed IT to run, but IT was not a business driver. Digitization has changed all of that. Now the IT departments and the CIO are a critical part of driving revenue.
Accordingly, the “CIO must assume a strategic leadership role and drive change throughout the organization.”
For some, embracing this role as a change leader is tough.
Not long ago, CIOs were struggling to get a seat at c-suite strategy meetings; now the expectation is that these same leaders will champion change throughout the organization.
Not sure where to start?
Begin investigating the challenges facing the business and corporate objectives. An in-depth understanding of these areas allows CIOs to develop, “tech-related solutions” that demonstrate “business thought leadership to gain CEO support of other, much needed IT initiatives.”
CIO Challenge #2: Fortify Your Network’s Security
Want to find an IT initiative that the entire organization can get behind?
Start with security.
SearchCIO found that “security finished in the top three for respondents from all company size segments.”
The executive team is relying on CIOs to ensure network security. Forty-nine percent of chief executives see cybersecurity as a technology management issue rather than a business management issue.
The CIO challenge is to transform the perception of security from a strictly IT-issue into a business issue.
Business Wire reports that “79% percent of CIOs note that digital business is making their IT organizations more ‘change ready,’ which suggests that now is the perfect time to implement change within IT organizations, and, in turn, make the transition to the new job of the CIO easier.”
Respond to this CIO challenge by harnessing the support and talent of the organization to develop a solution. Success in this area provides the foundation for future support and an expanding role within the business.
CIO Challenge #3: Increase Your Team Size
Finding the budget for more resources is always tough.
Yet, CIOs that are championing digital transformation throughout their organizations are making it happen.
More than 71% of top performing organizations have a separate digital team to support digitization efforts.
To gain the backing of your c-suite peers, establish a collaborative team that includes the CFO, CEO, and even director-level representation from marketing and sales to create digital strategies that support the goals of the business.
Business intelligence and digital transformation touch each area of the organization. Invest in achieving cross-discipline support by educating your teams on the opportunities to support IT-driven growth.
CIO Challenge #4: Master Your Network
The greatest CIO challenge, and primary responsibility, is the health of the network.
Without a healthy network, digitization efforts fail.
Without a healthy network, the CIO loses credibility within the organization and the opportunity to be seen as a change leader.
“While in the age of fast change, technical debt has rapidly become one of the largest, yet rarely-discussed accumulated icebergs that sink far too many IT improvements and transformation projects before they ever get out of the gate.”
CIO Challenge #5: Master Your Maintenance
Overlapping service level agreements, coverage that does not support the needs of the business, and even double coverage of existing equipment run rampant in many enterprise networks.
A common CIO challenge is understanding network needs and ensuring that the department is purchasing support that meets those needs, and nothing more.
Business Insider reveals that “in this new world, CIO success is not based on what they build, but the services that they integrate. The CIO has become an expert orchestrator of services. The real finding though is that this is happening now, today. CIOs must start scaling their digital business and changing their own jobs with it now.”
If CIOs cannot master the services that support their current network, they will not be trusted as the orchestrator of organization-wide initiatives.
Know Your Support Needs
Understanding your current network requires an in-depth understanding of support level agreements, entitled support, and maximizing equipment life through third-party maintenance.
Successful CIOs are partnering with support experts to evaluate the health of their support strategies and ensure that service budgets are optimized.
To prevent unnecessary equipment replacement, businesses are leveraging third-party maintenance (TPM) which allows functioning hardware that has reached the OEM-mandated end-of-life (EOL) to continue serving the company.
Avoiding replacement of well-functioning equipment through an independent or TPM support provider reduces risk to the network, decreases support costs, and allows CIOs to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the needs of both the business and the network.
How can CIOs prevent disaster?
It starts by documenting and understanding your network – both hardware and support agreements.
Ensure that inventory lists are accurate, current, and include criticality definitions, equipment locations, and applicable support (both purchased and entitled).
Digital transformation is a network-centric project.
Network-centric projects of this scale must begin with a baseline. With this knowledge, IT teams can start standardizing processes and support to streamline deployments.
“In a highly standardized and well-documented environment, service interruptions can be drastically reduced. And should they ever occur, services are restored at a minimal meantime to repair (MTTR).”
Not only does a well-documented network decrease downtime, but it also increases the ability of the organization to comply with regulations (such as GDPR) and provides opportunities for automation.
According to CIO, 35% of executives report that automating IT processes is at the top of their priorities, followed by the seemingly endless cycles of network upgrades (31%) and compliance efforts (31%).
CIO Challenge #6: Educate Your Executive Team
The very skillset that kept CIOs out of strategic business discussions is now paving the way into those meetings.
In the past, CIOs were seen as having specialized knowledge that applied only to IT-decisions. Digital transformation is breaking down this silo.
CIOs have the knowledge the business needs to increase performance. The CIO challenge is taking that knowledge to the CEO.
According to Gartner Fellow, Mark Raskino, "CIOs need to be educators. In the 1980s we were running training programs for IT because the business didn't know what it was. We have lost that idea of the CIO as an educator. It should be at the core of the CIO's DNA to educate, to show the business what is possible."
Executives seeking to increase their role in the organization must start as educators.
CIO: Educator and Expert
Overcoming CIO challenges requires being the clear expert within the organization. As financial, marketing, sales, and operations teams implement their digital strategies; the CIO must be ever-present.
According to ZDNet, “CIOs are well situated to be the ultimate orchestrator of enterprise-wide IT.”
To become the “ultimate orchestrator,” CIOs must demonstrate their capabilities as organizational thought-leaders and educators.
CIO Challenge #7: Transition From Controlling Costs to Driving Revenue
While the CIO challenge of controlling costs and harnessing network support spending remains unanswered, many CIOs are facing the new task of turning IT departments into revenue drivers.
SDXCentral reports that CIOs see a transition from “controlling costs and engineering processes to driving revenue and exploiting data.”
CEOs have heard the financial promises of digital business and are looking to CIOs to drive the charge.
“CEOs believe that being a digital business will contribute to profitability and expect digitally attributable revenue growth,” says Edward Qualtrough.
Few CIOs receive the budget increases necessary to drive this change. As ZDNet notes, CIOs are facing “a growing chorus from the CEO and the boards to get going with digital transformation, but without much new budget to do it…most organizations would have to increase their IT spending 50% to 100%” to achieve digital transformation goals.
Without an increase in budget, how can CIOs begin to achieve the results CEOs and boards demand?
Uncover Hidden Budget
Eliminating unnecessary spending on network maintenance opens the door to significant budget relief that can be redirected toward the drive for digitization.
Embracing both IT functions and business growth requires evaluating support decisions in-light of informed decision-making and budget trade-offs.
Informed, transition-ready CIOs understand how maintenance budgets apply to the real needs of the business.
As Marc Wilczek, an IT leader veteran notes, “In essence, CIOs [are] the enabler of data-centric business models and have the unique opportunity to serve as the growth engine for the enterprise.” He goes on to point out that data is the new currency of the 21st century; an idea that supports the transforming role of the CIO.
Digital transformation, the expanding role of tech in the business, and increased pressure to drive revenue, provide tremendous opportunity for the role of the CIO to grow.
Informed, timely responses to CIO challenges separate those leaders who seize the opportunities for growth from those that see their roles diminished within the business.