News & Analysis

What CEO Really Wants From The CIO

The entire C-suite is becoming more reliant on their CIOs for business success than ever before, writes Kumar Parakala.

The Boards and the CEO are taking serious interest in the CIO Agenda today with clear expectation that the CIO actively contributes to business growth, innovation, transformation and enterprise risk management initiatives. Digital disruption is now an accepted fact in many industries and its impact is quite significant in almost all areas of business. The Boards and CEO have started understanding the potential of new emerging technologies when they see some of their competitors get almost 10% or more of their revenue from effective deployment of digital channels. The expectations of the Boards and the CEO of major companies have not only changed, but also have significantly increased. They are more reliant on their CIO for business success than ever before and the emerging strategic priorities include:

1. Maximizing the potential of Digital transformation

Digital technologies are creating new opportunities for businesses to transform and deliver enhanced customer experience and services. Defining a good digital strategy and more importantly its effective execution has become a major requirement of many businesses to remain competitiveness. CEOs are expecting the CIO to facilitate the development of Digital roadmap for their companies by collaborating with other CXOs and business unit managers and ensure its effective execution. The Boards asking their executive teams to maximize growth opportunities and shareholder value by leveraging the true potential of Digital.

Digital technologies are opening up new channels for businesses to sell and deliver services online. In many industries, online services are creating new revenue streams and it has become critical for organisations to remain competitive. CIOs are expected to help business units create these new revenue channels.

2.  Align and transform the IT Department to meet business needs

Digital technologies have not only disrupted traditional businesses, but also their IT shops. CIOs are grappling with the challenge of transitioning from a legacy environment to a more nimble and flexible digital environment. They have come to recognize the need for a new IT team that will ensure the relevance of their departments in an era of Digital disruption and more active decision power of business units in technology matters.The Board and the CEO are keen to ensure that appropriate skills are available to meet new business requirements.

3.   Greater Business Intelligence and Analytics to drive decision-making

Global companies have already recognized the benefits of BI and analytics in a wide range of functions covering marketing, sales, supply chain management, manufacturing, engineering, risk management, finance and HR. This space is going through a massive change with the decision-making becoming heavily reliant on real time data and new reporting tools. CIOs are expected not only to implement these solutions working closely with the business units, but also put processes in place to recognize data as a corporate asset. CIOs are expected to work closely with other CXOs of the business units to provide greater insights and information for important business decisions. Effective use of BI and Analytics will positively impact top line, bottom line and customer services parameters.

4. Protect the business from Cyber Attacks

With significant increase in use of new technologies, all businesses are vulnerable in cyberspace. This is one of the topics that the Boards and the CEO are concerned and would like to ensure their organisation is protected. CIO are preparing their organisations to deal with cybersecurity threats and are proactively developing strategies to mitigate risks. Apart from developing an effective cyber security strategy, CIOs are enhancing employee training on security matters, recruiting more qualified professionals and redefining their access policies to company data. They are using more sophisticated tools and building employee awareness to protect their organisations against emerging risks and cyber-attacks. Boards and the CEO expect CIO to implement effective Cyber Security, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery measures to protect corporate assets. Many recognize that this is a major area of vulnerability and they are not fully prepared to deal with it.

5. Deliver Enterprise Mobility solutions in a safe and cost effective manner

The use of Mobile devices, Smart phones and Tablets have significantly increased in the last couple of years. In many organisations, the business units are driving the Consumerization of IT, as employees are consuming new technologies and devices for personal use and expect them to function seamlessly at their workplace. CIOs are wrestling with effective execution of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies with employees of the organisation seeking more enterprise mobility solutions than what the CIO can deliver. CEO and other CXO are asking for mobility solutions (because their employees are asking for them) in a safe and secure environment.

6.  Transition to new vendor outsourcing arrangements to meet business needs

Outsourcing of key business functions have delivered significant benefits to companies for more than two decades. With the increasing use of Digital technologies, CIO are recognizing the need for new platforms, services, skills, infrastructure and delivery models. Many CIO are actively planning to transition their current outdated IT assets to a new more agile and nimble environment that supports digital solutions. The Boards and the CEOs expect that the transition will not only happen smoothly, but the CIOs are able to take advantage of driving the costs down and increasing the overall value to the business. CIO are actively considering deployment of Cloud solutions to achieve some of these objectives.

7.      Enable Innovation for business growth

The CEO and other CXOs are expecting the CIOs to spend more time helping the organisation innovate and help create new growth opportunities, rather than just manage their IT shops and keep the technology ticking. Nowadays most of the innovation is technologically driven and therefore, there is an expectation that for CIO to play a more dominant role in driving innovation that will create new growth opportunities.

This is also an opportunity for the CIO to redefine their roles as more business-centric, innovation and growth orientated leaders, who can create valuable corporate assets through effective deployment of technologies and data management.

(Kumar Parakala is a technology veteran who served as a Senior Partner and Global CIO Advisory Leader for KPMG)

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