CIOs in the boardroom

The strategic importance of IT is meaning CIOs are getting a bigger role at board level

Tags: IDC Middle East and Africa
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CIOs in the boardroom Rajan: There are not enough progressive CIOs in the region.
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 22, 2014

The role of the CIO is shifting due to changes in technology, but how can IT leaders ensure that they are taking a full role at board level and helping organisations to deliver strategic change and growth?

Although the CIO may hold a C-level position on paper, the reality of the situation is that IT in the region often doesn’t really take a strategic seat in the boardroom, but is seen as a service provider, with the CIO often reporting to another C-level position rather than directly to the CIO. That situation is changing however, according to Ranjit Rajan, Research Director, Software & IT Services, IDC Middle East, Turkey & Africa, and for CIOs, there is a growing opportunity to claim their place at the top.

One important aspect of this shift is the fact that technology has gained in importance to most organisations, Rajan said: “What we are seeing is increasing focus on technology in the boardroom, we are seeing C-level executives are increasingly discussing technology, primarily because of the emergence of the third platform technologies — cloud, mobile, social and big data analytics — and add security to that. The emergence of these four pillars, and the heightened scrutiny and focus on security has made technology a boardroom topic.”

Consumerisation of IT has also heightend C-level awareness, with CEOs expecting to be able to bring the technologies they use outside of work, such as mobile devices, into the business.

Although technology has grown in importance, it is not always the CIO who is driving the discussions. More progressive CIOs may be initiating the discussion, but otherwise it is often departments such as marketing that will raise interest in social technologies or operations who want mobility solutions, Rajan notes. Responsibility for implementing and maintaining the new technologies will eventually fall within the CIOs remit, but the CIO may be pressured into it by other CxOs.

“The progressive CIO would want to lead the discussion right from the beginning, but that isn’t often how it happens,” he said.

“Because of the transformation that we are seeing in the IT industry, the role of the CIO has been enhanced over the last few years, but having said that, if you ask me if there are enough progressive CIOs who can really drive strategic decisions around technology, I would say there aren’t that many.”

Rajan points out that compared to developed markets, the CIOs in the Middle East have been much more focused on technology, compared to CIOs in larger multinational companies who tend to have more influence and to be driving a lot of strategic initiatives.

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