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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

"I try to make sure he has time for big picture thinking, so there's no clear idea on a solution that we need for the business, it's not targeted to a particular business unit or company, nor a specific client, it's actually just stuff he comes up with or comes across that could really change our business overall, whether it's structural changes or overhauling the website, and so on."

Tearing down boundaries

Learning to collaborate with all these new roles and partners is critical for CIOs who want to foster business growth, but also to remain relevant as times change.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' fifth annual Digital IQ study found companies with collaborative relationships between the CIO and other c-suite executives are four times as likely to achieve business results such as revenue growth and high profit margins, as well as earning a higher 'digital IQ' overall. C-suites characterised as strong collaborators typically link their IT road map to corporate strategy, the study says.

The reality is collaborative relationships are proving difficult to maintain, however. In IDC's latest LOB Sentiment Survey, 47 percent of LOB leaders said their CIO was fighting a turf battle with at least one c-suite peer, and 54 percent agreed that non-IT departments view the IT group as an obstacle to their mission.

"There's a threat that CIOs are feeling in terms of the proliferation of other people who claim the technology base and who also have a 'chief' title," says Hillard.

"The CIO should be playing an active role in innovation, but not trying to protect their turf. The reality is you need a mindset that is, 'how can I apply innovation and technology to achieve great things for the organisation?'"

Indeed, allowing others to take over certain responsibilities can take the pressure off CIOs expected to champion innovation, freeing up time and head space to commit to developing business strategy.

CIOs should highlight their unique vantage point by bringing their skills in IT methodology and cross-business purview to the executive table.

"There's more than enough room for everybody to play, and the CIO will be seen as an enabler and will reduce the risk of them being seen as a blocker."

The message across the board is that digital-ready CIOs don't just focus closely on driving growth, but also the relationships they need to support this, and are far more open to taking advice and trying out new ideas.

Recent research by Ernst and Young also found digital-ready CIOs see digital as a major opportunity to fulfil their career aspirations. Meanwhile, even in IT-intensive industries, only half (51 percent) strongly agree that they are taking the lead in pioneering new digital approaches within their businesses.


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