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Why the CIO role is vital for successful digital transformation

Posted by Andrew Allen | 25-Sep-2017 11:15:55


A recent report by Dell Technologies surveyed 4,600 business leaders from around the globe to analyse their organisation's transformation efforts. The report found that 1 in 3 fear they’ll be left behind by digital transformation. To remedy this 91% plan to invest in powerful technologies within the next three years. Unfortunately, the same number of business leaders say they are facing major hurdles to transformation. It’s little surprise then that many business leaders intend to work closely with their Chief Information Officer (CIOs) to stay in control of the digital transformation agenda. Let’s look at why this is?


Interim CIOs frequently tasked with leading change

We all know that Head of IT jobs are extremely demanding, requiring outstanding organisational and management abilities. However, it’s also acknowledged, that these postholders simply don’t get the time or opportunity to stand back and take a look at where the business should be headed, and how to get there. That’s why organisations which see the value of strategic leadership in meeting the challenge of digital transformation, have a CIO role, responsible for technology strategy. In small and medium-sized companies, rather than adding the CIO role to the organisational structure, there’s the option to use interim CIOs. They have the huge advantage of being able to take an outsider’s look at the business, and provide a leadership role in steering the organisation to a future where technology strategy drives productivity gains. 

Enterprise level strategic view

Organisations which have a CIO role, or add one for the duration of a business change cycle, are able to separate operational delivery from strategic development. The Head of IT worries about how to deliver, given user expectations and limited resources. The CIO is concerned with what should be delivered, and how technology can increase productivity in the enterprise in both the short and long term. When an interim arrives, their detachment from internal politics means that they can make suggestions that wouldn’t find favour with existing IT managers and IT support staff. The classic example is outsourcing. Clearly, there is frequently a conflict of interest between the needs of the organisation to increase productivity through significant business change, and the understandable desire of existing IT support staff to maintain the status quo. 


CIOs stand back from operational detail

The senior executive team finds itself hampered by a lack of sector knowledge in its attempts to discuss this kind of change and lead it forward. The interim CIO however, understands the technical issues and can discuss the change knowledgeably with IT staff. But at the same time, they won’t get bogged down in operational detail. They understand the business drivers of the company but are also aware of new technical and business developments. This is why CIOs are often from a technology-driven business background rather than a purely technical one. 

Complex governance issues require oversight

At the same time, the governance and legislative framework within which businesses operate, is also constantly changing. IT security is becoming increasingly important, as the risk of data leaks and hacking continue to present major threats. And then there are the changes in data protection legislation which could result in businesses that breach regulations, being forbidden to use their existing customer data. With an overstretched IT department, it’s all too easy for new IT security requirements to get missed. Luckily, businesses have many options regarding the CIO post. For example, both interim and part-time CIOs can fill the role at a substantially lower cost than appointing a permanent, full-time board-level member.




Topics: Management, Security, Productivity

Written by Andrew Allen

In my day job as Chief Executive, I am responsible for ensuring we stay true to our purpose and values. In a strategic capacity, I am also responsible for developing relationships with key partners and major accounts. I love working with ambitious, growing companies who want to challenge themselves and the status quo. Technology, when properly leveraged, can help an organisation differentiate and beat their competition. It's a real joy to make a difference.

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