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Rapid technological advances. They’re changing everything – from the shape of centuries-old industries, to the nature of customer interactions, and the possibilities of customer experience.

Navigating this ever-shifting digital landscape is tough. Every organisation needs someone to take the lead. And, increasingly, the gauntlet is falling at the feet of the CIO.

In our new e-book we explore this seismic shift with the help of leading analysts and senior IT executives – uncovering the 5 new roles that modern CIOs must be able to play. The complete e-book is packed with actionable insights, but here’s a taster of the main ideas… 

How the role of IT has changed

Once upon a time – really not that long ago – IT was primarily seen as a cost centre, enabling and supporting day-to-day operations, and generally allowing an organisation to get on with the business of business.

But as the possibilities of technology have expanded, so too has the remit of the IT organisation. Increasingly, the most forward-thinking companies are looking to IT to take on a more strategic side – planning new products and services, new ways to drive internal efficiencies, and new levels of customer experience.

As Gunnar Menzel, Chief Architect for Infrastructure Services at Capgemini, explains:

“Over the next couple of years corporate technology functions will move from a cost centre, that typically reports to a CFO, to a business-benefit centre where the CIO/CDO sits on the board.”

This shift places CIOs and IT leaders in a position of huge responsibility and immense opportunity.

It requires them to use – or develop – a whole new range of skills, and take on a number of new roles.

The modern CIO needs to be a Visionary

According to Gartner, nearly 40% of CIOs report they’re already leading digital transformation in their business.

Leading your organisation into a new relationship with technology is rarely easy. It means creating a persuasive vision of the future, and changing those outmoded perceptions about the nature of the IT function.

The modern CIO needs to be a Change Manager

Getting everyone dreaming the same dream is only the start. The tricky part comes with making that dream a reality.

Today’s IT leaders must be expert change managers – identifying the drivers, setting the objectives, and constantly measuring and communicating progress.

They’ve also got to manage change at micro as well as a macro level. As Randy Kern, our own EVP Infrastructure Engineering, puts it: 

“You need to get very crisp about the ‘from’ and the ‘to’, asking yourself what are we doing today, and what’s going to be different tomorrow. For individuals in the organisation, it’s about answering the questions, ‘Will I have a place in that new tomorrow? Will I have friends there? Will I be valued there?’”

The modern CIO needs to be the Guardian of Compliance

Today, data flows into organisations from ever more sources. It’s the lifeblood of the digital business.

But with the value of data on the rise, protecting it effectively – and keeping pace with ever evolving regulations –  is an ever greater challenge. Rising to it depends on IT leaders forming a close working relationship with the legal counsel. The kind that ensures risk is mitigated, and regulations observed, but still lets innovative uses of data flourish.

EY’s Stuart Orr describes this new role as follows: “[An IT leader must] be a guardian for compliance, mapping out how new technologies and sourcing strategies can be implemented with an eye on security and privacy regulation.”

The modern CIO needs to be Innovator-in-Chief

Leading an organisation through its digital transformation isn’t just about embracing new, ‘innovative’ technology like mobile apps. (Though that’s sure to be a part of it.) It’s about changing your systems and processes, and making innovation a part of how you operate. 

According to Thomas Lee-Warren, Director of the Technology Group at Royal Mail, it’s up to CIOs to ensure innovation is given the attention it’s due: 

“Technology leaders must seek out their innovators, otherwise a business will find itself replacing clunky slow processes with slightly faster clunky processes and the opportunity to 'pivot' through insight has been lost.”

The modern CIO needs to be an Agility Champion

Turning innovation into action, before the competition? That requires being able to move fast.

One way to drive agility is to empower everyone – from IT, to marketers, salespeople, customer service reps and finance officers – with the chance to build apps, and improve workflows.

Such empowerment can translate into huge value for a business. IDC recently projected that companies using Salesforce App Cloud will realise business benefits worth an annual average of $242,272 per 100 users over 5 years.

Agility also depends on connecting everyone to communicate in simple, efficient ways. Accenture CIO, Andrew Wilson, reports that:

“The most exciting times are when we put technology in the hands of our people: things that become part of global processes of sales, analytics and insights, like accounting and distribution. Within Accenture, we’ve established mobile, social and collaborative platforms that connect our employees and allow them to share ideas more easily than ever.”

There’s no one better to be taking charge

Are CIOs and IT leaders up to the task? Certainly. In fact, they’re exactly the smart, technical, creative, people organisations desperately need in this time of rapid change. As our own Randy Kern puts it:

“IT must tell the story, and help the rest of the company dream a little bit about what that digital corporation could look like. And I’d argue they’re well-equipped to do it. Folks in IT and technology tend to be fairly creative. We call computer science a science, but it’s really equal parts arts and science in CS and in IT.”

Read the full e-book, and hear more from Royal Mail, EY, Capgemini, Accenture…

Remember to check out the full e-book, and hear more from everyone quoted above, plus fresh insights from 451 Research and the Confederation of British Industry.