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Too many tech fish in the c-suite: Embracing new roles that overlap with IT

Bonnie Gardiner | Aug. 4, 2015
CIOs not equipped for the demands of the digital world must learn to embrace roles like the CMO, CDO and the CINO

With the digitalisation of business, and the spotlight on innovation growing brighter by the minute, IT leaders are often pressed to become the digital leaders and innovators their companies crave.

The latest report found business leaders increasingly expect the CIO to lead corporate-wide innovation projects and to help develop new products and services, but three quarters (74 percent) of CIOs say it's tough finding the right balance between driving innovation and keeping the lights on.

Further, according to a Gartner report last year, 42 percent of CIOs believe their IT organisation lacks the key skills and capabilities necessary to respond to a complex digital business landscape.

While grappling with digital transformation will require a shift in the skills and approach of a traditional CIO, relatively few are equipped for the demands of a digital world. Perhaps noticing the strain on IT, organisations have been sniffing out new blood to exploit burgeoning opportunities from new and complex IT trends.

As a result, the past several years have seen new leadership roles cropping up across industries: chief marketing officer, chief digital officer, chief data officer, chief growth officer, chief science officer and chief analytics officer, to name a few.

Probably the most prevalent digital role today, chief marketing officers (CMOs) made a splash in the IT pool back in 2013 when Gartner research analyst, Laura McLellan, claimed that CMOs would control more of the IT spend than CIOs by 2017.

The focus on digital services and big data forced CMOs and CIOs to work more closely together as IT slowly became a front office function, transforming from a cost centre to being a business enabler.

The latest roles driving the evolution of the CIO, including the increasingly popular chief digital officers (CDOs) and chief innovation officers (CINOs), are growing in number and intersecting with CIOs to become the connective tissue -- if not the driving force -- behind many IT-heavy initiatives. So how can CIOs continue to embrace the expansion of the c-suite into what has always been their domain?

Influx of new roles

"The biggest battleground in the c-suite is over the idea of customer facing technology," says Robert Hillard, managing partner at Deloitte consulting.

"It's now completely impossible to find where technology ends and customer service begins, these things are totally integrated. And what's more - the best digital companies don't differentiate between the business systems that provide product capability, and the digital services they provide.

"That means you naturally have people like chief digital officers and chief marketing officers and product general managers saying they actually own, and want to be directly involved in, the architecting of those business systems."


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