Reinventing the CIO

What does it mean to be a CIO? More than ever, businesses rely on their CIOs to achieve digital transformation at scale—and that means understanding the vast and ever-changing technology landscape.

These are the words from Foundry’s 22nd CIO survey, in which a majority (77%) of the 837 executives surveyed said their role had been elevated due to economic conditions, making them the most visible champions of change within the organization one. The top three activities CIOs plan to focus on over the next three years are driving business innovation; redesigning business processes; and modernizing infrastructure and applications.

A majority of CIOs (85%) believe their role is becoming more digital and innovative. Another 70 percent expect their involvement in cybersecurity to increase in the next year, and more than half (55 percent) also expect their involvement in data analytics, data privacy/compliance and artificial intelligence/machine learning to increase.

The CIO role now requires greater immersion, inspiration and insight into technology and business. “The role of the CIO is rapidly becoming more focused on technology practices and becoming the delivery engine for business transformation,” Cisco CIO Fletcher Previn said in an interview at the company’s New York offices. “Many companies need less generalist CIOs and more IT practitioners have deep subject matter expertise in how technology delivers what businesses want to do.”

That means leading with technical expertise, as well as leading with business expertise. 68% of IT leaders say they are currently responsible for generating revenue, up from 65% a year ago. The authors of the Foundry survey said that last year cybersecurity was the top business and technology priority, and this year “it’s all about transformation in pursuit of greater efficiency.” Improving operational efficiency is the most important business initiative, cited by 45% of respondents. Transforming existing business processes through strategies such as automation and integration was the third-ranked goal, cited by 38 percent of respondents.

Thirty-eight percent of IT leaders say security and risk management technologies are still expected to drive the majority of IT investments in 2023. IT leaders also listed data and business analytics (34%), application and legacy system modernization (28%), and machine learning or artificial intelligence (26%) as other investment target areas.

Previn expects CIOs to take on a larger role in supporting the hybrid workplace and take on a design role to enhance workplace technology and enterprise systems. “It’s a very servant role,” he said. “We serve those who serve others. I’m here to empower everyone to do the best work of their life. Every minute people spend struggling with something distracts them from what they were hired to do Our job is to pursue those experiences and remove friction from the environment so that people can be their best.”

Design thinking within enterprise technology is “a really novel concept for people to think about it in terms of experiences first, and solutions second,” Previn said. “Before, we just accepted that things were hard—a clumsy, bad experience. Now people come to work and think, ‘You know who I am, you know what my job is, and people are paying thousands of dollars for it. Billion dollars.’ They should have a better experience than this, probably the best experience of my life. Easier said than done, but that’s what CIOs work for. Working for them without people knowing it Delivering what they need and enabling hybrid work will be a very important set of IT challenges to get right – including security, remote access, workstyles and culture.”

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