4 things innovative CIOs do

April 7, 2021 | David Daly 5 Mins read

The chief information officer at multinational organizations is often the person in charge of the organization, storing and management of data and information related to the day-to-day operations and running of the business.

The explosion in big data and transactional information over the last decade has increased the level of nuance and complexity demanded of a CIO today and the role has become a lot more strategic as the ability to manage, analyze and use complex data is now a crucial and much sought-after skill.

Like every other member of the C-Suite team, innovation is now a key priority for IT leaders and every CIO- they will be looking for a competitive edge and seeing where data and the analysis of it can be of strategic benefit to the organization.

The job is now about a lot more than storage and management of data – it has become about the innovative use of this data to drive business models forward. Innovative thinking is now required and in this article, we will examine a few important things that innovative CIOs do to drive growth and improve overall operational efficiency at multinational companies.

1. Lead digital efforts with innovation

Forbes recently undertook a CIO Transformation survey  and discovered that 42% of CIOs predict their jobs will be mostly digital in 5 years-time.  Given the pace of technology change and the explosion in big data, this is not hugely surprising, but it is also very indicative of the way a number of significant leadership roles at multinational organizations are headed in the future.

Many CIOs are therefore focused on leading digital efforts with innovation as it is clear that digitization and new technologies are the future of many business functions, and as business leaders, they need to be leading the way when it comes to digital processes.

The job has become a mix of leadership skills, data understanding and management, and deep technical insight. Leading with innovation is about considering how innovation can drive strategic growth within the organization and increase market share. It covers everything from digital transformation to business process change all the way up to product development and end user customer experience.

CIOs are therefore heavily focused on digitized process and digital platforms as they look to introduce innovation across a number of business-critical departments. Digital innovation can help organizations deliver services in a faster, smarter and better way- a way that helps deliver on business strategy.

Digital platforms, cyber security, cloud software, artificial intelligence, automation, integration and reporting analytics are areas that innovative CIOs are educating themselves on as they look to get ahead of trending digital behavior in the marketplace. They are immersing themselves in these things as they look to develop new business models and new opportunities for business transformation.

2. Become a business adviser

A chief information officer can no longer afford to be a person who specializes only in technical information and IT management. Today, they are required to know specific ways in which these skills can add value to the organization as a whole. A CIO needs to become a business adviser to the CEO, other C-Suite team members and possibly even the board of directors.

This is about a blend of business and technology expertise and using this blend to influence a range of business functions within the organization. It is about being able to articulate how technology, data and information become business drivers instead of support functions.

The CIO has an opportunity to create and develop a business advisory capacity into their role and ensure that they become a key stakeholder in business strategy and development. Innovative CIOs now have a seat at the table when it comes to helping business leaders source options for what it is they want to deliver.

There is a requirement here to put data management to one side and focus a little more on business acumen and advisory skills. Many innovative CIOs understand this trend and are taking proactive steps to add new skill sets to accompany their technical expertise. When they do this, they find themselves in a position to help elevate the IT organization from an operational support function to the role of business partner or strategic adviser.

3. Get comfortable with taking risk

CIOs understand that there is always a level of risk in their role and the genuinely innovative CIOs choose to become more comfortable with it. It is a matter of debate as to whether or not they would go as far as to embrace it but avoiding risk means limiting your scope in terms of innovation and culture change- and this might not be the path to long term success.

This is something of a natural addition to the previously mentioned business adviser capacity nature of their role -if you become an adviser and play a role in the strategic direction of the organization, then the risk of failure hangs over you as much as any other member of the C-Suite team.

This is something that CIOs have to deal with and simply get comfortable with as success without courage, risk-taking, decision-making and major innovation is very difficult to achieve. The likelihood of course is that if you don’t do it then someone else will. Innovative CIOs recognize that this is very much the case in the unforgiving world of modern business, so they are becoming increasingly willing to accept and take on risk as part of the role.

Failure is sometimes the price of doing business, but new market share and product innovation cannot be carved out unless you are willing to stick your neck out a bit and take a chance. Some of the best products on the market recently have come from disruptor organizations, i.e., people who became comfortable with uncertainty and risk and chose to do it anyway- they did something different, something unique, something bold- and they did it because they decided to.

4. Remove barriers to digital progress

The survey mentioned above revealed that many CIOs now fully accept that their jobs will be mostly digital in five years-time so now is the right time for innovative CIOs to be removing any barriers within an organization to digital progress.

Digitization is the future; therefore, they need to become advocates and enablers of this level of digitalization. CIOs are leadership figures with an interest in spreading their message about the advantages of digital innovation and ensuring that adoption rates across the organization are high. This starts with engagement and communication, then develops into financial and creative support for digital transformation projects and increased innovation across major business functions.

Removing barriers is also about upskilling internal staff and making sure that they are equipped with innovative digital tools that helped them do their jobs in a better and more efficient manner. Improving business service operational efficiency via digital platforms and innovation further removes barriers to digital progress and a CIO can be expected to lead on this front.

Removing barriers is about support and guidance but it is also about a willingness to experiment and promote new digital concepts and initiatives.  The goal will be to ensure the foundations are in place for the organization as a whole to become a digitally mature business.



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