How Digital Transformation Fundamentally Altered the Role of CIO


The digital transformation has been firmly entrenched in our lives for seemingly a decade now. It is all-encompassing and everywhere to be seen. The whole thing got started with IT-specific topics like cloud computing and big data; it has gone on to change practically every business process, and entire business models, too.

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Business is Changing

What makes a company a digital company is not that it is heavily focused on networking and computerization – it is much more than that. These topics instead serve as the foundation for new types of business. There are now a vast number of companies whose business models could not function were it not for software and networking. They include the likes of eBay and Facebook. Digitalization is further spawning new and novel types of business models like sharing, crowdworking, and co-creation, which in turn are producing companies such as Uber and Airbnb. That is having an impact on conventional business models that need to change and adapt to the new circumstances. Some of these will even become obsolete and vanish from the market altogether. Topics like the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 clearly show that the digital transformation is not limited to a few individual cases or cutting-edge companies. Rather, they demonstrate that the economy and society as a whole are affected by the digitalization.

This is changing the role played by IT, which does more than simply deliver services. It is now essential for modern business to function, be that ERP, e-mail, telephony, and even venerable Excel. Where the digital transformation defines the business itself, IT is the main driver and must serve in this role for this transformation to succeed.

Jobs are Changing

This has fundamentally altered the role of the CIO as a company’s senior IT official. While a CIO’s responsibilities in past years had nothing to do with cables or keyboards, their duties were primarily technical in nature. They were in charge of organizing their company’s data center, made decisions on what servers or ERP software to purchase, and served the primary goal of meeting their employer’s business needs.

As fate would have it, they are now placed in a pioneering role in the digital transformation process. Where business models are software-defined, it is essential to have someone with a firm grasp of how to responsibly utilize software. This person should also know how to successfully develop business processes and models in an increasingly digital world and recognize what opportunities await a business in this field. This means CIOs will more and more be forced to grow into a hybrid role. This requires new skills. As such, many CIOs who started their careers in the IT department have expanded on their technical expertise to develop business skills and an entrepreneurial approach as well.

This has not made the job of being CIO any easier, especially considering they still need to focus on tasks in and around big data, analytics, the Internet of Things, information management, budget and resource planning, and the age-old issue of security. These all continue to remain pertinent. The digital transformation has not changed this fact. Now more than ever, a company’s future is determined by whether this process proceeds smoothly.

Become a Connected CIO

By taking on this hybrid role at the key interface at every company, the CIO is becoming one of the senior decision-makers at a management level. They have to provide support in helping the company achieve its business objectives as well as in defining these very goals. The connected CIO in the digital era needs to work hand in hand with customers and with everyone at the company, including management, the IT team, and the rest of staff. To recap, the position has not become easier, but it has certainly become more exciting.

To learn more about the new job profile of a CIO and how they can prepare for this role and the key challenges that await them, please refer to our new Connected CIO booklet available for download now.

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