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Why CEOs must go big in digital (or go home)

Clint Boulton | May 3, 2016
CEOs are investing heavily in digital business strategies, hoping to avoid the kind of disruption roiling sectors such as transportation, banking and other industries. And that’s good news for CIOs.

CIOs assume ‘agenda-setting roles’

As CEOs work to improve customer relationships and workforce productivity CIOs have an opportunity to bolster their positions. Just a few years ago, the CIO was viewed as a cost center, a passive leader whose primary function was ensuring the financial systems and data center operated as expected. But CEOs accustomed to leading in an analog world are uncomfortable with digital, so they will often delegate duties to the CIO, whose roles are evolving from back-office IT managers to more strategic leadership positions.

“CEOs now understand that digital business is substantial enough to warrant them leading it personally,” Raskino says. “If they delegate primary responsibility, then the next most likely leader is the CIO.

And as the CEO grapples with managing the digital transition, the CIO often helps communicate what the digital value proposition means to human resources, product development, sales, legal, and risk and compliance leaders. "The CIO role is evolving to be a more progressive, agenda-setting role,” Raskino says.

Raskino also offered some cautionary advice for CEOs and CIOs. If economic conditions deteriorate further, companies could slip back into "old IT" behaviors, including slowed or halted approvals, budget bickering, biases toward cost-savings from revenue-generating projects and the "false comfort," of waterfall software development and project management.

Raskino said CEOs and CIOs need to fight this temptation, and offered this analogy: "Try to use an economic slowdown as a racecar driver uses a curve -- head into it a bit more aggressively and accelerate out of it faster than your competitors."

gartner ceo 2
(Click for larger image.)


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