As I travel around the region, it is incredibly valuable to meet with CEOs and CIOs where they live and do business, and hear directly from them what keeps them up at night. Whether in London or Bucharest, all share concerns about ‘the future’ and the role emerging technologies will play in transforming their business for the better – without throwing out what is working today with the bath water. Another common discussion point for both groups is the changing role of the CIO – how they are now seen as not only the person who is keeping the technology running, but as a key player in deciphering emerging technologies and identifying which innovation projects will help propel them forward – so they can disrupt before being disrupted.
The impact of emerging technologies on the way we run our businesses and the evolving relationship between humans and machines is something Dell Technologies has been exploring over the past year, with our latest ‘Realizing 2030’ global research project with Vanson Bourne surveying 3,800 business leaders forecasting the next era of human-machine partnerships and how they intend to prepare. The results were pretty unanimous with leaders agreeing we’re on the cusp of immense change, with 82% of those surveyed expecting humans and machines to work as integrated teams within their organization inside of 5 years. However, they’re divided over what this shift will mean for them, their business and even the world at large. To share just a few of these divided opinions:
- 50% of business leaders think automated systems will free-up their time – meaning the other half don’t not share this belief
- 42% believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading the tasks they don’t want to do to machines
- 58% don’t share this prediction. If they don’t change their opinion, they will keep doing tasks that could easily be automated and will continue to lack time for higher order pursuits that focus on creativity, education and strategy
Charting a course for the future given the rapidly changing environment is hard enough as it is. If business leaders have to deal with the polarizing viewpoints described above, then confidently making the right decisions to transform their business is going to be even more challenging. Fortunately, this is where the CIO can really come into his or her own. The ‘Realizing 2030’ research also revealed that business leaders do agree on the need to change and that emerging technologies like AI, AR and VR can be leveraged to speed up digital transformation.
So how can the CIO take these insights and demonstrate their strategic role in mapping out the direction the organisation needs to take?
- Lead with the technology. No one in the organisation knows as much about technology as the CIO. It is through innovative use of technology, namely software, that start-ups are disrupting established companies. A technologist to the bone, the CIO not only knows which technologies can be used to attack the company’s position, but can also play a leadership role in identifying how the company can use technology to pre-empt disruption or move the goalposts to their advantage. However, as I discussed in my previous blog on the seven habits of the effective hybrid CIO, the future forward CIO needs to have more than technology know how, but a deep understanding of the strategic business and financial goals of the company to turn that technology insight into a roadmap to the future that the board will buy into.
- Follow the data. If there is one thing leadership teams understand, it’s numbers and the CIO is the master of all data. It’s key to understanding customer behavior, to analyzing operational efficiency and improving customer service. The CIO can use this data to look backwards and forward, combining the advanced analytics of historical data with real-time data collection to tell a company where to go next. This also positions the CIO to be the best choice to set the metrics and KPIs which will better direct digital business transformation.
- Be human. There is a tendency when talking technology to be totally binary or metrics focused, but a key success factor in any organisation’s transformation is their people. So the CIO needs to balance driving change at the right speed, without going too fast and losing valuable resources along the way. The CIO needs to set the tone and clearly explain why change is necessary and what it will mean to the organisation – in fact, our research found the number one top tip to accelerate digital transformation from business leaders was to secure employee buy-in on a company’s digital transformation vision and values. Together with the CEO, the CIO will convince people of the vision for the future, showing the immense possibilities on the horizon
This is a great moment for CIOs to shine, both in translating emerging technologies into reality, and showing the strategic value that they can create. The role of the CIO is multifaceted and needs to look at every challenge and opportunity through different lenses. Every new technology begs a thorough investigation, both from a technological point of view and a business one. Does this emerging technology have staying power or is it just a passing fad? Can it be easily integrated into the overall architecture of the organisation? Will it drive forward our IT, security and workforce transformation? Can it help to differentiate our service offering in order to catapult the company to become a contender in the next era? These are the questions that need to be answered to make the right technology decisions for all organisations as they navigate this new era of emerging technologies, and the CIO is uniquely positioned to separate the hype along the way to hyper-growth.