A two-word strategy for CIOs' digital ambitions: carpe diem

Are marketing executives really qualified to make business technology decisions? Time for IT leaders to take the lead.

Amidst all the bluster and hype about digital enterprise, the role of chief information officer has been murky. Some analysts and pundits say the CIO's role with technology is being eclipsed by marketing executives, or by emerging positions such as chief digital officer. The speculation is that the CIO's stake will be pushed back to more of a back-end support role, keeping things up and running, while others pursue the more visible business side of things.

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Photo: USDA

The folks at Accenture, however, have another message for CIOs: carpe diem, or seize the day. And they mean, literally, the day -- from day one, get out on front of and start advancing the organization's digital strategy.

That's the word from Accenture's Diana Bersohn, author of a new report that describes how CIOs can open the door to elevate their roles within enterprises seeking to increase their digital footprints. Technology has become a strategic necessity for today's enterprises, and CIOs have the qualifications and vision to guide the business. But it's important to start today: "High-performing CIOs start off strong, making some bold moves in the first 90 to 120 days to gain control of the conversation around their company's digital aspirations and innovation agenda," Bersohn urges. Her advice is meant for new CIOs taking the helms of IT departments, but it's just as relevant for current CIOs seeking to re-invent their roles as well as those of their departments.

To this end, she makes the following recommendations for CIOs seeking greater roles in their digital enterprises:

"Know how digital demand affects every area of the business." This is the CIO's opportunity to move "from the server room to the board room," says Bersohn. Business and technology are now one in the same -- every organization is now a software and data company to a large degree, and from this poit on, no new business initiatives will be undertaken without a technology aspect,

"Become the company's innovation architect." Bersohn says even within enterprises, leaders have their own "brands" that shape perceptions about what they stand for and will deliver. Innovation architect is a brand CIOs should strive for. To establish this brand, she advises holding regular meetings with senior leaders to understand their needs and expectations, and design technology initiatives around that.

Embrace the 'We Economy.'" Today's technology tends to be driven from the consumer side of the equation. CIOs need to recognize "that success does not rely solely on IT operations and one's ability to control them, but on being a collaborative participant in an evolving digital ecosystem, both within and outside the organization." Bersohn advises creating a network of digital allies by opening up "lines of communication with the most technology-savvy senior leaders--regardless of their titles and where they report across the enterprise" -- even marketing people. Above all, she adds, a CIO has to be a superb communicator and exercise that skill all the time."

"Get your whole IT team on board with your agenda." It sounds like obvious advice, but many IT initiatives tend to be fragmented and working toward different aims. Bersohn says that enterprises need IT professionals both as digital visionaries, as well as technologists committed to keeping things running behind the scenes. If necessary, shake up the organization's system of recruiting and training to find and develop the talent -- inside or outside the organization -- that can help move digital dreams forward.

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