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‘Fire yourself’ as a CIO and come back as a business executive

‘Fire yourself’ as a CIO and come back as a business executive

"That is what the business demands," says Andrew Rowsell-Jones of Gartner.

Our ultimate goal is not digitalisation, it is value realisation

Andrew Rowsell-Jones, Gartner

“If your enterprise, your agency, was looking to fill your job today, would they hire you?”

 Andrew Rowsell-Jones, vice president and research director at Gartner, poses this question to CIOs to highlight the steps they they need to take in upcoming months.

He says the 2018 CIO survey of 3160 CIOs from 98 countries, reveals the job of the CIO is changing amidst digitalisation.  In the Asia Pacific, which includes New Zealand and Australia, there were 537 respondents in the survey.

The survey concludes the CIO’s role is transforming from delivery executive to business executive — from controlling costs and re-engineering processes to driving revenue and exploiting data.

“Digital business clearly has the power to transform organisations,” the report states. As this transformation evolves, success requires a move from digital experimentation and pilots to the digital scaling of proven practices.

The survey says it is “inevitable” for CIOs to “remix” their job in order to support this change and continue to be transformers.

The survey finds 93 per cent of CIOs at top-performing organisations and 78 per cent of the total global sample lead adaptable and open-to-change IT organisations,due to the ongoing transformation to digital business.

“This makes now the right time for CIOs to transition to their new role and develop the crucial characteristics they will need to master going forward,” the report states.

If your enterprise, your agency, was looking to fill your job today, would they hire you?

Andrew Rowsell-Jones, Gartner

Rowsell-Jones notes the survey finds IT budgets are growing across the globe by 3 per cent, and in ANZ, this is higher, at 3.2 per cent.

“If we don't respond to what is happening in the environment, we are in danger of becoming frog soup,” says Rowsell-Jones. This is a reference to the oft-used metaphor about frogs that will not jump out of the pan if the water is tepid, and thus, be boiled to death.

“The nature of the CIO’s job has changed fast,” he says. “Now is the time to fire yourself as a delivery executive and hire yourself as a business executive.”

He points to how former Intel CEO Andy Grove responded to changes in the mid-80s when the margins in the company’s memory chip business were collapsing. He talked to Intel co-founder Gordon Moore (of Moore’s law) and asked if they will continue in this business, or bet on the then unknown technology of microprocessing.”

Grove’s question was: “If you were to fire me as CEO of Intel, what will the new CEO do?”

He says the two decided to fire themselves, leave the building, turn around and come back again and get themselves ready for the future.”

“It is time to fire ourselves because that is what the business demands,” says Rowsell-Jones, who talked about the 2018 CIO agenda at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo at the Gold Coast.

He asks, “What does our new job look like if we are redesigning our job?”

He says CIOs must lead like a business executive and take a commercial view of how things might change.

He shares how CIOs can help create their ‘new job’.

He says the survey finds 95 per cent of CIOs expect digitalisation to change their jobs. He points out CIOs who are considered the top performers generate more digital revenue and have processes that are more digital.

But, as he notes, “Our ultimate goal is not digitalisation, it is value realisation.”

The survey also finds more top performing CIOs are spending time on executive leadership and differentiating technologies.

There are disruptive technologies coming, and CIOs need to prepare for them in the short-term as well as explain their impact to the executive team, says Rowsell-Jones.

For instance, AI is being used for recruitment and fraud management. Conversational interfaces such as Alexa, of which 21 per cent stated they are deploying already, will be the user interface of choice.

“If you can't convince them the stuff is important who is going to do that job?”

CIOs at top-performing enterprises are more likely than their peers to consider their top differentiating technologies as more strategic and spend more time on them.

Which technology area do you think is most important to helping your business differentiate and win/to achieving your organisation’s mission?
Which technology area do you think is most important to helping your business differentiate and win/to achieving your organisation’s mission?

He says the board wants to know about digital disruption and cybersecurity.

Around 95 per cent of CIO respondents believe cybersecurity threats will increase, with about 4 per cent saying these will stay the same, and 1 per cent believing the threats will decrease.

“If you don’t have a good story to tell about cybersecurity, you have a problem.”

Which of these technologies will require or has required…
Which of these technologies will require or has required…

Go beyond traditional IT

The survey finds at least 84  per cent of CIOs at top-performing organisations have responsibility for areas of the business outside of traditional IT, the most common being innovation and transformation.  

An increasing number have taken on the job of chief digital officer (CDO). For public sector CIOs, the CDO role, innovation, and enterprise change management are the most common non-IT roles being adopted.

“CIOs who are not granted or tasked with transformational jobs may literally choose to seize the opportunity,” the survey states.


When asked about their success criteria, CIOs at top performing organisations report that they are already close to their ideal average split of success criteria: 56  per cent related to business outcomes versus 44  per cent related to IT delivery.

The biggest brick in the digital wall

He cites the importance of mastering change, as half of CIOs say  “culture is the biggest brick in the digital wall”.

“We are going to bring in a lot of change in the next couple of years and we have to master change,” he states.

He says comments like ‘we don’t do that here’ or ‘that is not the way we work’ stop businesses from scaling as digital businesses.

He stresses, “we have to master change...we can’t leave this to others to mop up our mess.”

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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