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The CIO’s role has changed.

Now what?

January 22, 2018 | By Lisa Dare, TEKsystems Digital Content Strategist

business professionals walk down modern hall

Oh, no. Please don’t say those words again. We just can’t hear them one more time.

Digital transformation.

OK, that’s out of the way. Yes, digital transformation is a thing and, yeah, it’s upending everything. You probably don’t want to talk about it anymore.

But transformation—of culture and technology—is just a fact of life in CIO World now. And while most CIOs know their business expects them to drive transformation, our new IT Forecast survey shows few feel they’re rising to the challenge.

IT leaders see their roles as becoming increasingly transformational

IT’s role began its latest evolution (sometimes painfully) when Marketing, HR and other teams started purchasing technologies and developing technical competencies on their teams. What we used to call “shadow IT” is now just part of doing business. But the amount of money and data involved, not to mention the risk, has created a new archetype for the CIO: manager of an ecosystem that includes business partners and outside vendors. “Engaging” IT leaders can add consultant to lines of business to that profile.

But there’s a leadership role to play beyond consulting. IT leaders will increasingly spearhead R&D projects in industry-disrupting technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. Several IT leaders we talked to at Gartner Symposium mentioned that their innovation budgets had tripled from 10 percent to 30 percent in recent years. And to many leaders, that’s scary stuff because there’s no roadmap.

Using DevOps to tame complexity

Many IT leaders are undertaking culture and technology overhauls to create the elastic platforms and nimble culture needed to adapt to change quickly. Tellingly, IT leaders in tech innovation industries (like technology product companies and banks) have adopted DevOps principles at a higher rate than traditionally slower movers like government. Across all industries, two-thirds of leaders report that they’ve started DevOps transformation or plan to within two years.

But many organizations interpret DevOps differently. Some have seen success in pockets and now face the challenge of getting other teams to adopt it. Others define DevOps as “we’ve automated a few things,” which misses a lot of the culture, process and mental leaps needed to accrue tangible, long-term benefits. Just as using a Kanban board doesn’t make you Agile, adopting one or two DevOps ideas doesn’t mean you’re Netflix.

6 stretch goals for the CIO

  1. Advance cloud sophistication.

    As many IT leaders have found, adopting cloud technologies hasn’t proved the silver bullet for controlling costs or creating elasticity in platforms. The big cloud sellers may help your organizations through the migration and implementation period, but what happens next? Many companies struggle to achieve lasting and optimal benefits from the cloud, but getting it right will help pave the way for future technology endeavors.

  2. Implement real DevOps.

    If your boss doesn’t know you’re doing DevOps, you’re probably not doing it right. True DevOps transformation goes up and down the chain of your organization, with ripples throughout your budgeting process, team structure, culture and technology platform. If your DevOps doesn’t look like that, you might want outside help.

  3. Inspire workers to embrace change.

    Digital transformation (sorry, those words again) has created a huge need and ability to collapse siloes, work faster and smarter, and think differently to solve previously intractable challenges very quickly. It’s that last part—thinking differently—that bedevils many IT workers. Change isn’t always fun for people who have gotten good at their jobs and understand the landscape. While no one likes being disrupted all the time, constant change is becoming the new normal, and it’s your job to evangelize that. IT and digital teams have to adapt especially quickly to keep up, and it’s also your job to help to manage their fears, inspire their confidence and help them change their mindset.

  4. Cultivate trust outside your department.

    You never thought the technology would be the easy part of the digital transformation, did you? But we’re all learning that the true gains from automation and tech upgrades and integrations entail a lot of organization-wide culture shifts, which means you have to work closely with partners in product, customer service, marketing, HR and others. If you also want these same folks to come to you first before sticking you with new tech they’ve bought, you must be seen as a trusted advisor and genuine partner, not a roadblock.

  5. Leverage diversity.

    Diversity isn’t just a PR initiative. The most innovative teams embrace diversity—something tech isn’t exactly known for doing. The CIO will have to become comfortable, or at least adept, at having hard conversations about topics like unconscious bias. They’ll also have to support hiring managers in finding diverse talent, which many mean doing workforce planning before the latest employee resignation, because hiring diverse candidates will probably require time, legwork and strategy. It might also mean putting teeth into hiring goals. And you can’t miss inclusion’s role as the linchpin to retaining diverse workers and benefiting from their intellect.

    Diverse teams help attract diverse candidates, creating a virtuous cycle. On the other hand, IT leaders who fail to leverage diversity and inclusion now will increasingly compete for a narrower group of candidates, and they’ll also have a hard time recruiting younger generations, who are highly attuned to diversity cues when evaluating employers.

  6. Talk about the Next Big Thing.

    Whether it’s AI, IoT, blockchain or whatever the next thing is, people in your company are bound to get excited about new technologies. Before you roll your eyes, remember that most people probably haven’t seen a Hype Cycle but they are attuned to the fact that technology can quickly tip the scales for an enterprise. They’re counting on you to recognize the disruptive trends, ignore the expensive fads and keep your whole organization competitive. (No pressure). So get used to being able to tell people that, no, you won’t be releasing your own crypto-currency, but you’re on top of the other stuff.

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