SMAC IT Big Data: The CIO expectations

The more tech savvy the C-level suite is, the more demanding the CIO role will be and the role title these days comes in many different forms.

In our conversations with clients, we’ve noticed that most executives, not just CIOs, are now more informed than ever on how technology can drive revenues.

Times have changed

That marks a change. In the past, they tended to view IT one-dimensionally, as a supplier of services, such as cloud or enterprise computing.

That past view was in keeping with the CIO’s own identify. Back then, if you asked a CIO what business they were in, they would say ‘technology’ regardless of whether they worked for an accounting or engineering firm.

This is no longer the case. Effective CIOs now see themselves as business executives who have intimate knowledge of their industry.

Today things are different

In reality though, the CIO role has always required leadership—downward and across the organization—and demand management—the ability to anticipate how IT can enable business expectations.

Now CEOs want to know what insights their CIO candidates can bring around customer channels. How will the CIO understand the front line? Is the CIO prepared to go out on a field service call or sit with call centre representatives? And at what level do they understand how the business makes money? Four years ago, these types of requirements were just aspirational.

This mindset is important. We often test for it by asking CIOs whether they know what their peers need to do to make their bonus payments.

The CIO’s mindset is a good indicator, but it is rarely that simple. Over the past year, there has been a distinct migration away from the use of the ‘CIO’ title, perhaps to reflect the additional demands being placed on their role.

Amongst several organizations, we noted the following titles: Chief Information Officer, Chief Information Officer and Head of Digital, the Chief Information Officer reporting to the Chief Digital Officer, and one with both a Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer reporting to different parts of the organization. Our experience is that there is no right or wrong nomenclature.

What is important is making sure there is reasonable clarity and agreement about how the organization is proceeding with their digital strategy.  

What are the trends for the future?

It is useful to break this into its components and then work through what that means in a particular organization.

The term SMAC describes the key elements of what constitutes ‘digital’– the use of Social media, Mobile devices, Analytics and Cloud computing.

To these, Matt Baxter-Reynolds (Author of Death of the PC), has added IT consumerisation and Big Data.

Here are some pragmatic descriptions that we use with our executive clients.

  • Social media - two-way channel for interacting with customers and for customers to interact with other customers.
  • Mobile devices – a way for customers to interact with your organisation’s website or staff
  • Analytics - how you might glean information from the data you collect (or ‘Big Data’ if you get lots of it).
  • The ‘Cloud’ - the capability you need to provide access to customers and clients
  • Consumerisation - now just about everyone can have access to what you do through multiple devices.

Examples of Digital Executive Scenarios

So how does this play out in a real-life example? One scenario might include:

  1. A Head or General Manager for Digital Channels, accountable for shaping and delivering customer business via those channels.
  2. A marketing team which does the analytics that assesses impacts and informs strategy.
  3. The CIO accountable for ensuring that the enabling technologies, systems, processes and information are readily available for these purposes – and continues to alert other executives to new possibilities and options.

Of course, it’s rarely as ‘clean’ as this, and that is to be expected. In some organizations the CIO role has widened to include accountability for direct channels to customers. In others, the CIO may not have moved quickly enough to clarify their value in some of these digital areas. Or, there might be a painful transition, where the CIO’s warning to the opportunities and threats in SMAC, has gone unrecognised.

None of this is necessarily fair. But nor is it unusual in the evolution of CIO-land.

What is the case, is that due to their increasing tech savviness, CEOs and executives now have higher expectations for their CIOs. This makes the CIO’s role more stimulating, but also demands greater leadership and relationship building qualities.

We can help you with this. We assess different types of capabilities, with strong validity, and with a clear path for positive, developmental feedback using a range of proprietary tools. See here.

By Dr Marianne Broadbent

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