Act don’t react: The changing role of the CIO as a leader in a time of digital disruption

The role of CIO is moving beyond just being the in-house tech expert and chief IT troubleshooter. It’s a role uniquely positioned to leverage technology to create value for businesses. Technology, and its ability to drive business, is now front and centre. But in an age of digital disruption, it’s no longer enough to passively react to change. Proactive leadership is the key.

Digital disruption and the challenge for CIOs

It’s an interesting time to be a CIO. While the job will always entail providing solutions and executing them, the role is shifting to be a more strategic, future-facing role. It’s no wonder, with Gartner identifying 93% of CSOs believe technology will rapidly change their company’s industry. This staggering level of digital disruption gives rise to business and IT strategies merging.

And this means CIOs need to flip from a maintenance role limited to thinking about their current system, to a proactive role that requires thinking about change management for the future.

But it’s a tightrope walk. CIOs must maintain compliance with government and meet contractual obligations with the companies they are serving. That makes it important for processes to be digital, visible, monitored and transparent.

Dealing with change also means managing stakeholders expectations. As their role shifts from a ‘fixer of things’ to a key strategic leader, CIOs need to make sure that all stakeholders are happy and on the same journey.

And, of course, leaders also need to make sure their teams remain happy – that the techniques on the floor are being reflected in change management across the organization.

  • An action plan for the future

Deloitte recently identified 55% of CIOs report that they are currently primarily focused on operational and execution responsibilities. With little time for more strategic tasks, 52% want to change the way they currently spend their time across various responsibilities. For these CIOs, flipping their day-to-day from a maintenance to a proactive approach requires its own strategy. Here’s how.

  • Get your documentation in order

Have a single place where all processes are documented. No mater how big or small, and even if there are hundreds, they all need to be documented. Have a single point of reference, so stakeholders all share the same lens.

  • Know your business

Gain the right insights about the issues and challenges facing your business, based on accurate information. McKinsey Digital identified the best CIOs invest time meeting with team leaders and managers to get a better idea of on-the-ground business realities and get an in-depth understanding customer issues.

  • Think big then make it small

While it’s important to get a clear idea of the big picture, don’t let it overwhelm you. Break down the complexity into pieces to make it more manageable to see a clear path forward. Find a partner to help you work out what needs to be done, then tackle each task methodically, one by one.

  • Partner up

Being an effective leader doesn’t mean going it alone; it means finding the right people for the job. The right partner can help you optimize you IT investments and strategically implement systems to drive growth and improve your business outcomes. An effective partner not only works with the CIOs and leaders, but the entire chain, reducing resistance by working through it person-to-person while aligning the objectives and outcomes for the whole chain to lead operational change.

A case study: change in action

Let’s look at an example of how we helped a client leverage technology to not only overcome a business challenge, but realize a significant operational benefit.

A utilities client had to undergo significant change as a result of regulatory changes. When these regulatory bodies bring in change it impacts every organization. In this case, specifically with electricity, it was incredibly complex. And when the client was reaching out to customers, they needed systems that were performing and exchanging data properly, compliant with the regulatory changes.

We engaged with stakeholders across the business, from thought leaders to employees at the keystroke level. We helped them make an informed transition to the new, more automated system that reduced manual effort and improved productivity. We demonstrated how much they were deviating from the new regulations, and through intense stakeholder engagement, identified problems before they even became an issue. We reduced their risk of historical data migration, and identified new improvements to support strategic initiatives, along with intelligent insights to help them make business decisions.

All in all, we transformed what could have been a ‘maintenance’ issue of just becoming compliant, to an opportunity to be future facing and lead business initiatives. And we freed up the CIO to focus on the future, while we took care of the maintenance. It was win, win.

If you’re a CIO stuck in reactive mode looking to move towards a more strategic, future-facing approach, please get in touch. We’d be happy to discuss how Aurion Systems can help you lead change and add value to your organization.