Digital transformation defines the CIO role

Chief information officers have to start doing more than managing applications and networks. The challenges posed by digital transformation mean that CIOs must embrace business leadership, says Laurent Marini

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Digital transformation defines the CIO role Digital transformation means that CIOs must embrace business leadership, says Laurent Marini.
By  Laurent Marini Published  April 6, 2016

IT transformation is gaining traction in the region with companies and entire industries being disrupted and transformed from the outside, as younger generations of consumers conduct more of their lives and transactions online, and from the inside as employees bring their own devices and habits to the workplace, and increasingly choose to work from home or on the move.

According to IDC, 64% of enterprises globally are exploring and implementing digital transformation strategies.

Today, the chief information officer (CIO) is at the centre of the digital transformation storm that is raging across the world, as users demand change rapidly and rivers of data flow from automated systems and processes, as Internet of Things, cloud and mobility connects up devices, assets and people.

CIOs are not just managing operations and the network, but playing a vital role in business strategy as companies scramble to meet the demands of the digital future — and the digital present. Chief information officers must manage a bewildering array of complex operations, technologies, devices and applications, covering telecommunications and IT, and stitch them all together under a unified communications strategy.

Digital transformation is gaining traction and becoming a reality for many companies – and whole industries – and nowhere faster than in the Middle East, where we are relatively unencumbered by legacy systems and processes.

Any transformational change is disruptive, but the speed of IT transformation is what makes it especially challenging — and CIOs are in the vanguard of this change.

Organisations expect IT to transform from a functional tool to a business enabler, adding real value and sustainable competitive advantage through cloud, mobility, Internet of Things and helping transform the business. This means the role of the CIO is changing  and transforming just as dramatically and they are increasingly in the firing line.

CIOs must be — or become — transformational, as organisations want IT to innovate.

So, CIOs have to balance the demand for innovation, while keeping on top of operations – equally demanding.

CIOs are wrestling with an increasing range of technology options, such as cloud, which, are also challenging the broader organisation, through security concerns and the associated risk, and it’s this that may scare the CIO and freeze the process.

Meanwhile, if the CIO is not as energetic in responding to the demands and opportunities of digital transformation as required, internal customers may bypass the IT department completely as business users opt for third party applications, compounding the security risk and undermining the visibility of potentially valuable data. Business managers may choose to buy external third party SaaS solutions quickly and easily, rather than working with internal IT, which may be overwhelmed by other operational demands.

These challenges apply equally to private and public sector organisations and governance is central to a CIO’s success in managing or avoiding security breaches and enhancing business performance.

A big threat to the position of the CIO is isolation and the risk of becoming marginalised from key decisions that will affect IT in the business. CIOs need to build support and consensus within the business alongside their IT governance framework.

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