The New CIO Playbook
As technology became ingrained in business, the CIO role and CIO playbook changed. CIOs have taken the lead in guiding digital transformations rather than simply implementing technology solutions based on stakeholder or executive recommendations. Digital-first cultures need leaders who understand business objectives and support business growth.
If you’re transitioning to a new company or role, it’s essential to establish yourself quickly and build relationships. Doing so helps you identify and implement change while gaining buy-in across the organization. Learn how the CIO role and CIO playbook is changing and what efforts to prioritize.
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CIOs: Leaders of Change
According to IDG’s 2020 State of the CIO report, 95% of CIOs acknowledged their role focused on management instead of traditional IT responsibilities. Indeed, CIOs delegate IT services management to focus on strategic initiatives. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 21% increase in strategic tasks, with leaders focused on aligning IT projects with business objectives and spearheading organizational change.
After all, businesses aren’t separating digital and business strategies. Now, a business strategy is a digital strategy and vice versa. This increased focus on transformational responsibilities and business strategist work means the CIO must go beyond knowing how to implement technology to understanding organizational change.
New CIOs must be able to:
- Identify emerging technologies, such as AI, IoT, and blockchain, and use them to drive business performance.
- Shape an organization by shifting to a digital-first culture that is data-driven, self-reliant, digital-friendly, and pro-learning.
- Demystify new technology with down-to-earth explanations tailored to individuals with various roles and skillsets.
- Explore new IT leadership roles to oversee IT services management so that you can focus on strategy.
- Ensure digital objectives strengthen resiliency while improving efficiency in the organization.
- Understand how and when to launch communications campaigns about changes and update training initiatives.
Essential Trends for CIOs and IT Leaders
As a CIO in charge of innovation, understanding business and consumer trends is a core task. However, the pandemic put many IT leaders in defensive mode. Crucial problems needed solving quickly, and there wasn’t time to analyze systems that came out of nowhere. Today, CIOs must move to the offensive and take a proactive approach to change management.
According to the 2021 State of the CIO, “The technology initiatives that are expected to drive the most IT investment in 2021 are data/business analytics, security/risk management, enterprise applications (cloud-based), customer experience technologies, and AI/ML tools.”
Core areas CIOs focus on include:
- Data: Go beyond data management. Map data requirements for each business goal and strengthen data literacy throughout your company.
- Customer engagement: Technology fuels digital and in-person interactions. And customer experiences drive revenue. Optimize touchpoints to align with business goals.
- Digital Twins: Improve decision-making and prediction accuracy with a cloud-based virtual simulation of your business processes.
- IoT and IoT devices: Reduce operational costs by incorporating IoT into maintenance and security monitoring.
- Hybrid work environments: Work with department leaders to adjust the post-pandemic work environment. Consider how spaces and technologies can fully support remote and hybrid teams.
- Cybersecurity: 31% of respondents to IDG’s 2020 State of the CIO report said increasing corporate resiliency through IT, and data security was a top priority. For many, the first place to start is with their biggest vulnerabilities — employees.
- The cloud: According to a Genpact and MIT Sloan CIO Symposium survey, done in August of 2021,“100% of CIOs say they’ve already started to adopt the cloud or will be starting to do so in the next 12 months.” Any digital objective should include scalable and accessible cloud-based solutions.
- Hyper-automation: Leaders are under pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Adjusting workflows to incorporate automation can help CIOs meet both goals.
- Hiring and training: The Genpact and MIT Sloan CIO Symposium survey finds that “49% of CIOs said they don’t have sufficient talent inside their companies.” Strategic hiring, outsourcing, and training will play a critical role.
Reaching Critical Milestones in the First 60 to 90 Days
The first 60 to 90 days in your new position set the pace and expectations for the time that follows. A transformational CIO doesn’t just check off boxes. Instead, they choose projects that directly impact and support core business objectives. And IT leaders who combine strategic initiatives with strong interpersonal connections get things done.
New leaders may prioritize:
- Deciding which pandemic changes to keep
- Mapping business goals to technology plans
- Surveying current IT infrastructure and tools
- Tying systems and architectures to core business objectives
- Achieving data and customer engagement initiatives
- Outlining when and how regular assessments take place
- Identifying modernization opportunities
1. Identify Key Areas for Improvement
When you first move into a new position, it’s essential to learn why and how the organization chose its development stack and databases. From there, dive into the details of each service, from overall function to adoption rates. At each step, look for opportunities to modernize or improve systems.
Potential reasons for updating or upgrading include:
- Reports of service disruption during a traffic surge
- The internet or wireless connectivity is slow or unreliable
- Usage data shows increased demand for services
- Your hosting environment is reaching capacity
- New resource provisioning takes longer than expected
- Communication and collaboration tools lack omnichannel capabilities
- A history of repeat service calls to the hosting provider
- The cost and payment structure isn’t compatible with the current budget
- Location of data centers and vulnerability to a catastrophic disaster
- Higher than acceptable disaster recovery timeframes
2. Take a Human-Centric Approach to Technical and Design Decisions
You’re tasked with improving user journeys for diverse groups, from designing convenient customer pathways to ensuring employees can access data insights. As such, every digital initiative should follow the journey, on and offline, as a complete circle. Get in touch with people who use the service now or could in the future.
Note the various actions required for each task and discover pain points causing friction. Listen to how users discuss their experiences and look for clues as to whether they want or need the service. Document any concerns about people who may have difficulty using the service.
You may need to update your company’s design style guide to ensure it meets the latest accessibility guidelines during your assessment. Likewise, pay attention to the language used throughout the journey—flag unclear terms or buzzwords for replacement.
3. Manage Security and Privacy From the Beginning
According to the 2021 State of the CIO, “57% say that increase cybersecurity protections increased as a priority due to current socio-economic conditions in 2020.” As such, any digital objectives should thoroughly examine security implications, from the type of data collected to potential vulnerabilities due to user error.
Reach out to privacy, security, and legal partners to identify key concerns and work to alleviate those during the design and implementation process. In addition, assess the current testing and certification process for technology stack layers. Determine if your project can move forward or if you should address security concerns first.
4. Prioritize Digital Agility
Whether adding new software or modernizing your infrastructure, it’s essential to devise clear milestones and eliminate communication and collaboration challenges. Organizations don’t have the time or budget to waste on initiatives that get bogged down in back rooms.
Ensure agility throughout the project by:
- Getting user feedback early and often: Do this by developing a minimum viable product (MVP) within three months from the start of the project.
- Facilitating team collaboration: Make sure collaborative spaces are user-friendly and support creative sessions.
- Involving business owners and leaders: Identify barriers to communication between delivery teams and leaders to reduce information siloes.
- Creating a seamless tracking system: Decide how you’ll monitor and prioritize bugs and poor user feedback.
5. Form Partnerships and Make Strategic Hiring Decisions
Third parties like managed service providers and contingent workers enable companies to focus on business-critical tasks. However, communication before, during, and after the project affects outcomes. When outsourcing tasks, it’s essential to ensure that contractors have the skills to complete the project and assist with delivery.
The parties should agree on the project scope, key deliverables, milestones, and performance metrics. Determine how internal and external collaborators will communicate and how often they’ll meet virtually or in person.
Moreover, you need to assess current and future job roles and how they fit into your business and technology objectives. Look for skill gaps in your organization and decide if you can mitigate these issues through hiring or if outsourcing is a sustainable long-term action.
6. Generate Stakeholder and Employee Buy-In
Let’s face it. You need to speak the language of many audiences, from delivering updates to stakeholders in a board room to responding to concerns on the manufacturing floor. It’s your job to listen, gauge experiences, and ask the right questions. To this end, relationships with human resources and department leaders help you get teams on board.
Rolling out technology will be fraught with problems unless everyone is comfortable with the changes. Additionally, it’s important to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Mandating change rarely works. Instead, focus on transparency, identify supporters, and develop a plan that acknowledges pain points for each individual.
7. Shape Corporate Culture
Today’s CIOs work alongside HR leaders to develop an agile, innovative, and inclusive culture. You can learn a lot by paying attention to how people work and interact. You may notice practices that don’t align with company values or technologies that don’t support your mission.
Left unchecked, established behaviors can work against organizational changes, making implementing new workflows or technologies challenging. You can uncover potential barriers and work with leaders to raise awareness and connect internal behaviors to corporate goals by taking an active role.
Making a Lasting Impact: CIOs Lead the Way
The role of the CIO is shifting away from traditional IT tasks to strategic management. And your first days set the tone for the organizational changes to come. Develop a plan using this CIO playbook that ties your technologies to core business goals. Then, work with your teams to create a collaborative, inclusive workplace.
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