Business transformation and the digital CIO

Three top leaders discuss the evolving role of IT and the CIO. Learn about managing change from world-class experts.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

Many innovative enterprises are evaluating how to take advantage of opportunities created by cloud, social, mobile, and data with analytics. The implications go far beyond technology into core activities related to business model, corporate culture, and interactions with customers.

Many companies making these changes undertake shifts in organizational priorities, goals, and technology platforms. Taken as a whole, we call these shifts “digital business transformation.”

Digital business transformation can push the CIO and IT in one of two directions. Either the CIO role evolves to help lead the transformation or IT may become relegated to second-tier status as a supplier of infrastructure rather than a partner for innovation.

The challenge for CIOs, therefore, is participating in the business decisions and strategies that will shape the company over the coming years. This requires deep understanding of the business and strong relationships with other leaders in the organization.

In my conversations with CIOs and other business leaders, digital business transformation is frequently a topic of discussion. The implications of digital transformation are profound for the company, its managers, employees, and customers.

Recently, I spoke with three leaders about these topics:

  • Oliver Bussmann, Group CIO, at UBS AG. Oliver is one of the most innovative and articulate CIOs I know. He leads IT for one of the largest financial services organizations in the world and views technology as a means to drive business results.
  • Jeanette Horan, Global CIO for IBM. Jeanette leads IT for one of the largest technology vendors in the world. During our conversation, she emphasized the importance of partnership with the business to solve their problems and help deliver on their goals.
  • Crawford Del Prete, Chief Research Officer, IDC. Crawford leads product development and research for one of the largest analyst firms in the world. His perspective on transformation is informed by data and research from over 1,000 analysts at IDC.

In the video below, taken from my CxOTalk conversations, you can see key points from these prominent experts on digital transformation and the CIO’s role.

Lessons for the CIO. When three of the most influential voices in the CIO world comment, it is well worth our time to listen. Here are three lessons:

  1. The best CIOs cultivate a business-centric agenda based on detailed knowledge of the company and its operations. Developing this knowledge requires the CIO spend significant time in the field talking with operating managers, employees, customers, and partners. There are virtually no exceptions to this rule.
  2. Transformation means understanding the company’s business model and the changes taking place in the market. Participating in discussions around future business plans and organizational adaptation is where the CIO can add great value.
  3. The IT organization must possess the capability and business sophistication needed to support technology investment decisions across the company. This means comprehensive knowledge of relevant technology products in the market along with a clear sense of where technology suppliers are themselves investing.

When IT combines business and technical knowledge with communication skills, the CIO becomes a valued business partner. In the age of digital transformation, that’s the CIO’s ticket to great success.

Also read:

CIO strategy workshop: Intel's IT leadership and transformation pyramid

McKinsey research: IT needs a kick in the keister

Enterprise social media: New battleground for CIO influence

Research: CIOs and the 'digitalization' of business

Accenture: CIOs must embrace digital transformation

Intel CIO presents the path to #Rockstar IT

Gartner: CIOs and CMOs must 'turn sparks into flame'

CxOTalk brings together prominent executives, authors, and analysts to discuss business leadership and innovation. Conducted live and unscripted on open video, CxOTalk offers a rich source of thought leadership from the top practitioners and thinkers in the world. Join co-host, Vala Afshar, and me every Friday for a new episode of CxOTalk.

Editorial standards