The CIO is changing – but how can it get through to the board?

Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018 11:00 AM by Jon Wrennall, Chief Technology Officer, Advanced

The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is changing. It has switched from being merely a back-end IT executor, according to a Raconteur report, to a strategic and influential member of the board tasked with delivering growth and change.

It’s no surprise. Technology is what is making a real difference to how an organisation performs – and it means CIOs are now firmly in the driving seat. Today’s CIO can (and if they’re not, certainly should) play a leading role in digital transformation, which I believe is at the heart of every successful business transformation.

The rise in disruptive technologies – like cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation – is already integrating and enhancing existing business processes and even enabling completely new business models. It’s this level of innovation that every business must invest in, creating opportunities and changing the CIO’s role like never before.

As an Advisory Board member of HMG Strategy, I’ll be on the board at tomorrow’s 2018 London CIO Executive Leadership Summit discussing how, with the right digital transformation – driven by the CIO – a connected infrastructure can modernise business, create a digital culture and drive productivity levels, allowing the workforce to focus on higher value activities, as well as provide real-time business insights.

Crucially, it can help to recharge the role of other leaders in the business. CIOs are under pressure to drive real business engagement and value, which is why they must ensure that fellow members of the C-suite get on board. They need to understand how technology can reshape the organisation and make it fit for the future – or risk it being left behind. At tomorrow’s event I’ll therefore be looking at real world examples of how new technologies are fuelling opportunities and helping people to do what they are best. And along with the bottom line impact they’re making, such as driving significant productivity improvements and simplifying complex business and societal challenges across sectors for the benefit of all, I’ll be discussing the challenges of deploying them and how businesses can mitigate the risks.

One business model that can be transformed by new technologies is that of customer service. CIOs can use technology to deliver an effective service to customers that are - in the main - already more digital-savvy and who expect faster and better engagement. It’s an area that every CIO strives to improve, and every board member expects to improve.

Just as organisations want a business that has been recharged with intelligence, with a real-time dashboard to glance at vital statistics across divisions and teams, customers are looking for the same level of information on the channels they wish to use. CIOs can act as the catalyst for change here, asking the right questions and demonstrating how technology can drive insight to foster than culture of customer centricity.

For example, most businesses are grappling with how to keep ahead of their customers’ needs, to maintain and delight them in every interaction. So providing a digital face to a business is fast becoming the norm. In the same way as ‘born-digital’ millennials have an expectation about using digital devices to empower them in the workplace, canny customers are now demanding the same level of service across all relevant digital touchpoints.

And increasingly, businesses failing to embrace these changes are missing out as customers turn their backs on brand loyalty and instead look for a service that is personalised, value added, flexible and demonstrates innovation. The results of Advanced’s annual Trends Report 2017/2018 showed these incredible results:

  • 72% of businesses now use social media to engage with customers, increased from 61% in 2016
  • 48% now use social media to learn more about new services and suppliers; at 74%, LinkedIn tops the social channels for learning more about new services or suppliers

These digital touchpoints are critical for driving customer service and proactive engagement, which in turn are making ideal talking points for board discussions.

The modernisation of technology to do things we could only dream of just a few years ago means that, with increasingly accessible tools, people can significantly reduce the time to deliver the results of yesterday’s experts. Core Financial Management Software (FMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which have been used effectively to manage and run a business, are transforming in the cloud to move beyond traditional historic and forecasting reporting, to provide business intelligence and analytics. 

And the innovations don’t stop, with the introduction of deep learning and the inclusion of AI and automation, CIOs can help the business start to unlock this growing pool of data, enriching and creating new insights – even enabling new customer-centric business models to be created. All of this is what the board of any ambitious business will be crying out for.

The bottom line? CIOs are in prime position to lead digital transformation in their organisation, so what better way to drive board engagement than through their customers?

I look forward to discussing this further at tomorrow’s 2018 London CIO Executive Leadership Summit. If you’re there, come along and join in the conversation!