What Does a Disruptive CIO Look Like in the Age of Digital Transformation?

In Digital Transformation by Daniel NewmanLeave a Comment

To say that the role of a CIO (chief information officer) has become more complicated and challenging today is an understatement, to say the least. Everything in our business space is changing at a mind-boggling speed.

Organizations are embracing more agile and nimble business practices. The combined forces of cloud, mobile, big data, analytics, and IoT—as well as many other trends—are bringing transformations we’ve never before experienced, never mind worked through. There’s mounting pressure on CIOs to capitalize on these emerging digital innovations, while, at the same time, keeping their IT operations running smoothly and securely.

The age of CIOs that believe in controlling their turf is practically over. We are witnessing the rise of a new breed of CIO—the disruptive one.

Who, or what, is a disruptive CIO?

The question is: What would this new breed of tech leadership look like? How would they be different from the “old” tactical CIOs? Does it come down to those that manage the rules and protect the company’s technology versus those that experiment and open doors? Yes, of course. They need to pull down the fortress they’ve built around IT and they need to go out and explore the disruptive technologies. Why? Because if they don’t, someone else will.

In IDC’s LOB of Sentiment Survey, almost half of the surveyed business leaders believed CIOs are engaged in a “turf battle” with other executives and 37 percent agreed that the CIO is being sidestepped in their organization. Frankly, to avoid being reduced to just another cog in the wheel, and to do better justice to their role as technology leaders, the CIO needs to evolve.

Does it sound like the disruptive CIOs are a more wild and reckless species with aspirations of greater results and bigger C-level impact? Well, if you consider the pace of tech innovations impacting the business space, a CIO that chooses to just protect and defend the status quo may in fact be morereckless and cause more harm than the disruptive one can.

The ‘I’ in CIO is more than ‘Information’

A recent article on CIO.com cited new senior VP and CIO at Informatica, Ginna Raahauge, redefining the meaning of ‘I’ in CIO. According to her, the ‘I’is “not just about information anymore.” Instead, it now includes infrastructure, innovation, integration, and intelligence.

Innovation is not an option, it’s a necessity. Integration is the key to understanding the whole business IT landscape. And while infrastructure has always been an IT responsibility, CIOs really need to get all the three ‘I’s working together. Deep knowledge of their business (and beyond) will help them accomplish this tall task.

How CIOs can befriend disruption

I believe the first change should be of the mindset. CIOs need to stop saying “Because it’s always been done this way.”

The thing is, business is nothing like it used to be five or even 10 years ago, and it’s never going to be again. The culture of outsourcing and the shared economy is opening doors to new IT practices. Businesses are warming up to the idea of having everything as a service. They are dipping their toes into big data opportunities. Transformation is happening at multiple levels. Employees are using new and disruptive tech tools at work to improve their performance and productivity. Team leaders are pushing harder for innovation and change,seeking buy-in from senior leaders and citing the improvements possible as proof that it works.

Sometimes, with enough prodding, CMOs and CSOs are given a free pass to try new technology. However, you can call this a short-term digital strategy—it’s certainly not a long-term plan for digital transformation. This is why CIOs need to come forward to help their organization transform digitally. And playing safe from within a legacy environment won’t work. Today’s CIOsmust, more than ever, be willing to open doors, increase agility, and foster solid collaboration with their line-of-business counterparts

With a laser sharp focus on innovation and a strategic vision towards IT/business integration, a disruptive CIO will play a leading role in the changes that companies will make moving forward.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

CIO Perceptions Misaligned with Their Business Peers (Study)
CIOs are Promoting Innovation Through Disruptive Technology
Disruptive CIOs Change the Conversation

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site Power More. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

photo credit: Glenn Morgan at Reboot book launch via photopin (license)

Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.