How a CIO can become a catalyst for change

August 28, 2020 | David Daly 5 Mins read

If change is the only constant in modern business, then a CIO at a major multinational today must embrace it on a level never seen before. It is not a question of expecting it or anticipating it, it is really more about constantly operating in the environment of change and being comfortable with the implications of this reality.

It makes for a fast moving, evolving and highly challenging role-but it also represents a genuine opportunity for a motivated individual to create a lasting legacy and genuinely influence the strategic direction of a company. This is something to be welcomed as many people crave a role where they can exert their influence and leverage technology and other resources to create a competitive edge.

In this article we will examine how a CIO can become a catalyst for change, how they can embrace the concept on such a level that it becomes part of their nature in such a way that they move away from reactive thinking and processes in response to inevitable change, and towards accelerating these levels of change for the benefit of the wider business.

Embrace Disruption

It may sound like a strange concept for people who choose a career in the world of evolving technology, but some people do not like major change or disruption. It would appear today that an environment of constant disruption Is the only one a CIO is likely to work in, so any person with notions of avoiding this level of change will have to think again.

To be fair, most CIOs except disruption to be a part of their world and tend to be adaptable and progressive people. But, it can be a case, that those who go out of their way to embrace disruption, expect it on an almost daily basis and treat it like a welcome opportunity for growth, will put themselves in the strongest position to become a catalyst for change.

So much is happening and there is so much to embrace -big data, analytics, cloud technology, artificial intelligence and next generation innovation, mobile applications and cybersecurity to name just a few. As these things enter, disrupt and change the market as we know it, they represent an opportunity for change and strategic growth that a CIO with a keen eye will recognize quickly and look to exploit. Opportunities are everywhere and those willing to take calculated risks and move with speed and confidence can reap strong rewards.

You can get lost in the storm of activity that accompanies disruption and technology innovation or you can embrace it on such a level that it becomes the driver that changes an entire approach or business model. An opportunistic CIO who has a strong relationship with their CEO will recognize the mass activity and heavy workloads that come with it, but still remain focused on it being an opportunity for growth and revenue.

User Centric Approach

CIOs need to always have the consumer or user in their line of sight- at multinationals today, there are many people and business units requiring the attention of the CIO and this can sometimes result in the consumer or user experience fading into the background. It is crucial to avoid this as there is so much to be learned from consumer insights and user activity in the digital and online world. How they act and what they demand will represent the future for many businesses and CIOs everywhere need to maintain a focus on delivering ease of use, fast access and reliability in their product suites. Mobile activity means that physical location has become much less relevant, and consumers prove time and again that products which are easy to use and give them a genuine sense of control are something they will always be willing to pay for.

Following a user centric approach with innovative digital tools that are designed with the individual in mind has a good chance of gaining popularity and market traction. CIOs and organizations that lose sight of trending information or fail to act on actionable insight derived from strong analytics will be quickly left behind, and history has shown that once an organization is forgotten about, it has to work very hard to regain public trust and establish a profile once again. Market economics are largely unforgiving and consumer loyalty is much harder to achieve in a digital world filled with options.

Cyber security, remote access and data privacy need to form a part of this user centric approach if a suite of products is to prove that it has been paying attention to consumer needs and concerns. A CIO is in a position to influence this via the acquisition of innovative technology and digital transformation tools that make products better for the user and more secure. Delivering what the user wants on a consistent basis while also being capable of rapidly changing direction in response to a new trend is not easy, but if done successfully can prove to be a genuine catalyst for change.

Leveraging tech and mindset

Being a catalyst for change often involves a somewhat holistic approach to product development and business models. While it is understandable to focus on innovative technology and its implications in the market, it is also crucial to develop the company and employee mindset to go along with this. Treating each as separate and handling them in isolation would be a missed opportunity and possibly result in only modest market traction for a new product or worse, none at all.

A go to market approach and a suite of products designed for commercial use can be very successful if it is obvious that they have leveraged the best digital technology available and aligned it with the mindset and approach where everybody is on the same page and rowing in the same direction. Failure can happen when the digital technology is being deployed at a rapid scale but the people element has been ignored -by this we mean, the employees of the company have not been asked to come along on the technology journey in the right way or the consumers who are ultimately being asked to use the product, have not been listened to.

A good CIO will look to leverage the technology only after buy-in has been achieved at a company -wide level. Digital transformation and technology can commonly lead to a quick uptake in sales on a temporary basis but usually will only result in long-term sustainable success if accompanied by a strong employee mindset ( fostered by the leadership teams ) and a suite of products where the views of the customer can be seen in their design.

Plan and scale

While always keeping the customer and end user experience in their thoughts, a CIO can begin to plan, release a pilot program, test with an audience and tweak appropriately, then move on to the scaling stage. They can make room for failure as long as this failing is done fast, and key lessons are taken from it. They need to get the right people involved in the right projects and make sure that any technology engineers are partnered with user experience experts so that any end product reflects the learnings from analytics, insights on market trends.

A CIO can choose to empower a business owner or specific project, support them with innovative tools and technology, then help them move a product to market for the kind of essential early feedback that will help them learn quickly if their initial instincts were correct.

This process will be about focus, support, funding and investment, key metrics, user testing and market feedback. The CIO can help provide the necessary platform and technology that is needed to support digital initiatives which can result in user friendly digital products. Business functions who are looking to take the lead in this area will seek a strong alliance with a forward-thinking CIO who believes in them. The opportunity here for the CIO, is to become a genuine catalyst for change as well as the biggest internal champion of technology driven innovation and digital transformation within the organization.


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