Due to the nature of their role, IT leaders carry the knowledge and are closely engaged across all business units in their organization.
Despite having this valuable insight of the company's business processes, however, CIOs today still lack the confidence to do more with the information they have to steer business growth. Instead, they're content with simply being technology managers, observed Khalid Kark, vice president and research director at Forrester Research.
They limit themselves to implementing IT to meet business objectives rather than identifying opportunities to drive business innovation, and are hesitant to do so because they believe it is not their responsibility, Kark said.
This mindset needs to change, he said. CIOs cannot simply be collaborators and should be co-creators who proactively identify business solutions and focus on ongoing and sustained innovation, he urged.
Kark said these observations are true for all IT leaders worldwide and not just any one region.
In recent years, there has been much talk about the whether the CIO role is still relevant to businesses.
Increasingly, IT operations are being outsourced and IT heads directed to report to their company's CFO rather than the CEO, indicating that IT is a cost center rather than a strategic component within the organization.
If Kark is right, and IT heads today are happy to remain as simply implementers and managers of technology, then they are at risk of losing their place in the organization.
For several years now, there've been numerous reports highlighting the need for CIOs to have business acumen and the ability to align their company's IT roadmap to its business strategy.
Choosing to shirk the responsibility of driving business innovation simply because it's not directly under the CIO's purview is a copout. Plainly put, they're passing the buck.
Sure, there are risks involved with any unproven innovation but any good IT head will have the insight and industry knowledge to make calculated risks. Beside, no risk, no gain, right?
The good news is, according to Kark, Asia-based CIOs as more open to changes than their western counterparts because their organizations are less likely to be burdened by legacy IT systems.
He acknowledged executing such changes and assuming accountability won't be easy. "It takes a lot of risk, and with innovation, you don't know whether something will work [out well]," he said.
This underscores the need for CIOs to have credibility and good track records, he noted.
Knowledge, after all, is power.
At the same time, CEOs also need to trust the judgment of their IT heads and empower them to make key decisions to drive change in their organizations. Without this mutual trust, even an Einstein of a CIO will have little power to evoke change.