CIOs new focus
“How is the role of the CIO changing?” asks Anne Weatherston, chief information officer at the Melbourne-based EnergyAustralia? It’s shifted from the back office into the C-Suite.
The CIO has a new strategic focus, Weatherston insists. “The focus is on a variety of fronts at all times. These include operational excellence, risk management, value provision and, increasingly, the definition and execution of strategic technology opportunities to support the business agenda.”
The CIO’s role is changing, because the role of the IT department is undergoing a radical shift. Seventy-five per cent of technology leaders say that IT is currently in the midst of the biggest shift in its history, writes Salesforce, in a survey of more than 2,000 IT leaders.
“Instead of being viewed as a cost center, IT is emerging as a value-based service brokerage, the old model of IT as a maintainer of the status quo infrastructure is giving way to a new mindset, in which IT adds innovative capabilities that bring a competitive edge to the business. The vast majority of IT leaders say the business teams they partner with believe IT is the biggest driver of business success.”
CIOs drive digital transformation
What’s more, CIOs are driving digital transformation as the basis of formative business change.
“In 2019, Australia and New Zealand have reached a tipping point in digital business maturity, with over 30 per cent of ANZ organisations starting to scale and harvest value from their digital investments. Yet the majority are still evolving their digital business foundations,” according to a study by the Sydney office of the Gartner Group.” In the ANZ region, only 33 per cent of businesses have reached digital scale,” Gartner comments.
“Ultimately, CIOs should focus on being able to baseline business outcomes such as customer retention and time to market to measure the impact of their investments through hypothesis-driven projects,” the study shows.
CIO and the data scientist
To lead this kind of digital transformation, using these kinds of metrics, the CIO has to be able to work with the data scientist. The data scientist goes to the data, and returns with analysis, but the trip isn’t worth making unless the CIO, and other leaders, have asked the right questions.
Building this kind of collaboration has been one of the key tasks for successful CIOs in the past few years, the Gartner study points out. It is up to the CIO to lead digital transformation, working closely with the CEO and the board to define strategy, and then test it with the data.
“The CIO must infuse business strategy with his/her understanding of IT capabilities and possibilities, so that the board’s decisions can be implemented effectively with technology,” Gartner continues.
If data is the new oil, then knowing how to refine it into actionable intelligence is the key to unleashing its potential, confirming the place of CIOs as leaders in the eyes of their C-suites and boards of directors, agrees IDG Analyst Divina Paredes.
Accordingly, CIOs are leveraging predictive analytics, crafting machine learning algorithms and battle-testing analytics solutions in pursuit of businesses efficiencies and new ways to serve customers.
The challenge for the CIO is to manage all this in the midst of a universal push for digital transformation, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics software will top $189.1 billion in 2019, an increase of 12 per cent over 2018, according to IDC. “Enterprises are rearchitecting to meet these demands and investing in modern technology that will enable them to innovate and remain competitive,” says IDC analyst Dan Vesset. “Big Data and analytics solutions are at the heart of many of these investments.”
The Gartner study warns, however, that CIOs in the ANZ region will face financial challenges in getting the resources they need to complete digital transformation at their companies.
The challenge comes from the downturn in global economic conditions and political volatility which we’ve seen in 2019. “This means flat IT budgets in ANZ,” Gartner says. “Organisations now risk making short-term investment decisions, which can slow or reverse digital business transformation progress.”
Gartner insists: This is the time to stay the course! “This is the year to become digitally ‘fit’ and stay the distance.”
CIOs must gain the confidence of the board
Despite the momentum that digital transformation is achieving at many ANZ companies, it is critical for the CIO to gain and keep the confidence of the board directors, as Weatherston points out.
“A further challenge is gaining the confidence of your business peers. Very few people are trained in the fundamentals of successful technology-enabled business change. This can make communication and influencing a challenge, both of which are fundamental to building confidence and partnering on technology-based change,” she says.
”For these reasons, CIOs need a wide-angle lens and a passion to keep developing and learning,” she adds.
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