The Intersection of Technology & Culture - The Changing Role of the CIO

March 19, 2018 Michael George

Around this time each year, we see nearly every online tech publication, analyst firm, and even a handful of vendors publishing their “Top Priorities for CIOs” lists. Oftentimes there are ten 'priorities'. Sometimes they’re called imperatives, or strategic imperatives. Sometimes the lists contain priorities, or budget priorities, if the list is looking for a few more eyeballs. Digging into 20 or 30 of these lists, some common priorities begin to emerge, like minimizing risk, digital transformation, addressing security, leveraging AI, incorporating IoT, moving faster, hiring better, and breaking free of the 80/20 trap.

However, one priority seems to have risen to the top (or near the top) of every list in some form or fashion: CIOs must change their role in order to lead the organization’s digital transformation. 

The many roles of today’s CIO

This means today’s CIOs are being asked to oversee business functions beyond traditional IT, in order to drive innovation and transformation across the entire business. These new responsibilities not only change the nature of the job itself, they shift the measure of success from things like IT delivery to more business-oriented outcomes.

This new breed of IT leader is expected to come to the table with cutting-edge solutions that change the way their organizations do business. Their challenge, unlike any before, is not only to select the right technology, but to shape and architect a dynamic workplace culture of collaboration, innovation, and fun. And make no mistake, business leaders are more integrated with, and interested in, IT objectives than ever.  

So the question becomes, how can IT and business leaders work together to achieve transformational outcomes through technologies that enable a winning culture?  

Don’t leave it to chance

Leading the organization's transformation requires an intentional approach to "architecting" a culture that will thrive using the chosen technology. Today’s CIOs have the required technical, project management, vendor management, and integration expertise that most other Senior Executives in the organization will never have. They are also likely to already be plugged into the business priorities of Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, and other C-suite peers. With all that expertise and influence, there really shouldn’t be anything stopping CIOs from taking the digital bull by the horns and leading, not just on technology selection, but on culture as well.

As witnessed over the past several years, technology is moving to the forefront as a critical driver of workplace culture — it’s how people collaborate, get work done, and service customers. As this trend continues to accelerate, it becomes critical for IT leaders to select and implement the right mix of technologies to meet the needs of the business — while providing the workforce with engaging, consumer-grade experiences that inspire a culture of collaboration and innovation. 

Prioritize CIO priorities

If it feels like the list of priorities is endless and it’s not clear where to start, that’s common. One place to start is to begin to understand how technology is contributing to the organization’s workplace culture. Is it enabling collaboration, or standing in the way? Is it empowering decision-making, or adding needless layers of process? 

The real list of priorities for each organization will be as unique as the organization itself. The evolving role of today’s CIO requires, first, understanding the significance of the organization’s culture in achieving business outcomes, and then selecting technology to intentionally architect and enable that winning culture. 

When your tech stack becomes equally important a leadership topic as your mission statement, you’re getting close.

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