I always enjoy seeing how executive teams evolve over time.  For example, how positive or negative the tone of voice is, or whether decisions are being made for pro-active or reactive reasons, or how long- or short-term the current planning horizon is, or how more or less diverse the boardroom is (don’t get me started; that’s another blog entirely….) 

Another interesting dynamic is which roles on the executive board are waning in power and influence and which roles are gainingThere are signs of a real shift now taking place, with chief information officers (CIOs) coming to the fore once again.  

The reasons for this are several: 

  • Structural change in the global economy, coupled with the recognition that Operational Resilience is a table stakes requirement for any organisation, is leading to the adoption of hyperautomation transformation programmes.  To succeed, programmes such as these require intense sponsorship and leadership from the CIO. 
  • Secondly, boards are realizing that organisation-wide adoption of technologies, such as citizen developed ‘attended’ bots in robotic process automation (RPA) deployments, is an incredibly powerful strategy – if done safely. If handled badly, this exact same strategy can lead to a disastrous loss of control over compliance, process, security and data. The logical response again is sponsorship and leadership from the CIO.
  • Finally, boards are also recognising that whilst the adoption of advanced technologies can enable extraordinary, profound, company- and market-changing transformation, there is also an overarching objective to ensure that advanced technologies are deployed in such a way that the ethics of the company are supported and enabled by the deployment. Accordingly, regulators, compliance functions and third parties are all placing increasing demands on the CIO as part of their ethics tests of technology deployments.

This trend has only been accelerated by recent events, which have seen boardrooms mandate for rapid digitalisationFor example, KPMG’s annual CIO survey reveals that despite the ravages of 2020, 43% of global CIOs predict a further budget increase, and 45% plan to up the headcount of their teams in the near future.  

“So what?”, you might ask. Well, the consequence of this shift is that executive teams need to accommodate for a new level of CIO importance, both from a budgetary and a cultural standpoint.

  • The remit and expectations of the CIO is going up dramatically and boards must make room in budgets accordingly. The market demands it too: in Gartner’s CIO Agenda for 2021, more than three-quarters of survey respondents say demand for new digital products and services rose in 2020. Another 83% expect it to increase next year.
  • Don’t see increasing technology expense as ‘overhead’ and associated operating procedures as ‘red tape’. Boards should see technology deployments as investing in world class talent, delighting customers, establishing competitive advantage, and serving regulatory obligations.
  • Finally, cherish your CIO. Make sure they take holiday, they stay fit, and they enjoy their work. Try and say ‘thank you’ once in a while.  They are under real pressure right now, and will be for years to come.  

Boards, executive teams and CIOs must be ready to evolve 

Are CIOs, their boards, and their wider organisations ready to face this new challenge? The answer appears to be not entirely. Our research from this year revealed that 39% senior IT decision-makers cite a lack of in-house knowledge and skills as a barrier to digital transformation, while a quarter of respondents cited a lack of senior level buy-in.  

According to research by Gartner, CIOs will soon be as responsible for changing the organisation’s culture as the Chief Human Resources Officer is today. Nonetheless, CIOs cannot be left solely responsible for driving digital transformation in their organisations. They need support from a forward-thinking senior team and a business culture ready to embrace change. 

Technology is advancing at a breakneck pace and continues to disrupt business-as-usual in the enterprise world. Some organisations are seizing the opportunity to pivot and become more agile, while others are dragging their feet to keep up.

Get in touch with us for help with solidifying your place in the former category.

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