The new CIO categories: Improver, influencer, transformer, inspirer

The new CIO categories: Improver, influencer, transformer, inspirer

So how do you progress through these stages to become the modern CIO – earning a seat firmly at the top table? Craig Charlton of Epicor distils the findings of a new research on the CIO role.

With ERP taking a large share of the IT budget and playing a significant operational role in improving the speed and efficiency of processes for faster, better-informed decision-making, we have undertaken research and examination into the changing role of the CIO, says Craig Charlton, SVP Asia Pacific for Epicor.

Typically we see that the role of the CIO now falls into four broad categories, notes Charlton, as he cites the findings in the report entitled Room at the top: How technology is inspiring a new breed of CIO in distribution.

Progressing through these categories, with the ability to harness technology to serve the needs of the business, the CIO can be a deciding influence on the future success of the company – not as a technologist, but as a business leader with a powerful portfolio of skills and resources, he notes.

Charlton writes about the four categories of the CIO – and how they can shift to become the modern CIO – “with a seat firmly at the top table”.

The four CIO categories:

Improvers: As hands on operators, Improvers control costs, increase efficiencies, optimise processes and make sure that the business gets the IT that it needs. Improvers focus on doing things better.

Influencers: These CIOs do things better by bringing the power of technology to bear on business problems. This is done on a case-by-case basis, but they are tomorrow’s Transformers.

Transformers: CIOs who are true Transformers work to gain access to and understand the strategic vision of their organisations and seek out technologies to fulfill that vision for the benefit of the business. This is the approach of a business leader.

Inspirers: Inspirers extend innovation to facilitate a tangible change in perception towards the use and value of technology.

The successful CIO knows that if the business is to remain competitive, he or she must shift the role of the CIO from that of improver to transformer– and, crucially, take others along on the journey.

There is significant overlap in roles and responsibilities as one moves through the four categories. Only if you’re able to improve processes can you dedicate your resources to innovation. The new CIO doesn’t stop being an improver but increasingly finds ways to empower others with that responsibility, in order to focus on being a transformer and driving the innovation to move the business forward. “

Five stages of progress of the New CIO

1. Support the future of the business through innovation. The CIO looks beyond the challenges of the day to drive the future of the business through innovation. New technologies breathe life into essential but stagnating processes.

Read more: The future of cybersecurity

The CIO acts as transformer, speeding up processes and increasing the velocity of the business while cutting out waste and focusing on operational excellence. The CIO is also the improver, managing the existing IT environment
to ensure business continuity, while having a keen eye on continually reducing costs.

2. Solve business problems not technology problems. As the CIO becomes increasingly Transformer-centric, the focus on innovation becomes more acute. The CIO has developed a greater understanding of the business and starts to be actively involved in strategy setting, enabling agility and change. The CIO anticipates and solves business problems with IT.

This CIO sets a broad technology agenda, designed to help the business benefit from leading edge applications and from the alignment of the IT and business strategies.

3. Take others along on the journey. The CIO has a good understanding of how technology can help to drive cultural shifts and be a catalyst to transform the organisational mind-set towards collaboration.

An important part of the role is to evangelise the team on how technology can deliver more value to the internal organisation. But the real skill comes in recognising opportunities
to extend collaboration to the company’s supply chain and to the external customer, fostering better service in order to deliver better service.

Read more: The DNA of successful New Zealand CIOs

As the CIO becomes increasingly Transformer-centric, the focus on innovation becomes more acute.

4. Change perceptions around the use and value of technology. The CIO becomes an inspirer, extending innovation to facilitate a tangible change in perception towards the use and value of technology. This change of perception affects the end-users of technology, for example the employees who log onto the network everyday, or who access company data on their own devices from just about anywhere.

Beyond that, it is critical that the IT staff also undergo a sea-change
in attitude, if the plan is to succeed. It’s about being able to say ‘yes’ to increasing demands for mobile productivity or third-party resources. It’s about being able to give up large chunks of traditional responsibility (for example, physical infrastructure), without compromising security, productivity
or excellence.

5. Collaborate, delegate, share responsibility to deliver results. Finally, everyone needs to understand and see the measurable benefits and the bottom-line improvements following adoption of various new technologies.

The CIO’s willingness to collaborate, to share and to devolve responsibility is shown best in the ability to select the right systems … systems that have been developed and inspired through a vendor’s keen understanding of what the business needs.

This is the perfect platform on which to raise
the profile of the IT organisation; it’s also the ideal opportunity to build personal credibility through the ability to continually deliver and implement the right solutions.

Read more: Primed for change

The advent of the new CIO

Charlton concludes:

"Where once technology was simply the enabler of business, it has now become its advantage. Driving through change, delivering on an architecture that allows rapid response and providing tools that offer insight and decision support, we see CIOs readily assuming the mantle of change and with a seat firmly at the top table, to undoubtedly transform businesses for the better."

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