Is Your IT Department Operational or Transformational?

The Two Roles of the CIO in Today's Digital World

Traditionally, the two-fold role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is to safeguard corporate information and ensure the quality of information supplied to enterprise applications for better and more objective decision making. However, as technology disrupts and transforms businesses, the CIO’s role, together with that of the IT department he leads, is also evolving from an operational into a strategic function.

Operational Role: The CIO as Manager

The main objective of the CIO as a manager, like any other manager, is the optimization of assets, including the enterprise systems and applications and the IT workforce, among others.

Ensuring the Quality of Data

  • The most important operational role of the CIO is to ensure the quality of data supplied to the enterprise. The CIO is in charge of overall data governance and of maintaining the reliability of data in the enterprise’s information systems. The CIO embraces this role by first establishing and maintaining a data policy. The data policy provides the enterprise with a guide for processing, utilizing, storing, and transferring data and helps the enterprise maintain the integrity of data across the organization.
  • In some enterprises, it is also the CIO’s role to establish a governing body that will oversee the enforcement and implementation of the data policy.

Safeguarding Corporate Information

  • Aside from ensuring the quality of enterprise data, it is also the CIO’s day-to-day role to ensure the security of those data. The CIO is in charge of making sure that critical information remains confidential and is protected against hackers and cybercriminals. It is also the CIO’s responsibility to ensure that enterprise data are properly handled, stored, and utilized by every employee of the organization.
  • According to TechRepublic, it is also the CIO’s responsibility to create, maintain, and enforce a security policy for the enterprise’s information systems. It is also the CIO’s role to educate different parts of the enterprise regarding its security initiatives and what they mean for individual operations and processes.

Deliver solutions to the enterprise

  • The most visible and obvious role of the CIO is to find and deliver solutions that meet the needs of the enterprise, from accounting to sales and marketing to manufacturing. These solutions include the accounting software, CRM programs, and supply chain tools, among many other enterprise applications.
  • It is the CIO’s responsibility to review, assess, and compare proposals sent to him by the enterprise’s IT department and project proponents to find the right solutions and solutions providers and to ascertain their accuracy and reliability. It is also the CIO’s operational responsibility to approve technology projects proposed by other departments to ensure the harmony and the proper integration of various applications in its technology ecosystem.

Managing Efficiency

  • Like any other manager, the CIO must also ensure that IT operations are effective and efficient, that is, his department should be doing its job of ensuring the quality of data, safeguarding corporate information, and delivering solutions using the least amount of time and resources as possible without compromising performance. It is the CIO’s responsibility to ensure that the technological investments, initiatives, and operations stay within budget.
  • The CIO must also be able to maintain robust, high quality, and streamlined operations oriented towards supporting the other departments of the organization and achieving its overall objective.
    Performing these roles well is a requisite for CIOs in order to gain the trust and support they need for their emerging role in enterprises: their role as a leader.

Transformational Role: The CIO as Leader

The role of the CIO is also evolving to reflect his growing strategic value to the company.
With the CIO’s background in technology and his knowledge of the enterprise’s current technology ecosystem, the CIO is well positioned to see which new technologies the enterprise can adopt and to determine whether or not the enterprise has the capacity to implement such changes.

As a leader, the CIO has three emerging roles in the enterprise: to innovate, to influence, and to manage change.

The CIO as an Innovator

  • As an innovator, the CIO has the responsibility of keeping abreast with technology developments. This means that the CIO needs to be constantly updated of the latest trends and technologies and also understand how consumers and other enterprises are utilizing these new technologies.
  • More importantly, the main objective of the CIO as a leader is to create business value through technology. More than seeking out and implementing new technologies, the CIO is responsible for finding ways to gain efficiencies, creating new businesses or improving business models, and delivering greater customer experience through technology.

The CIO as an Influencer

  • Despite the strategic value the CIO can contribute to the company as an innovator, many enterprises still fail to recognize this. Based on a survey of CIOs conducted by Deloitte, only 57% of respondents reported that the enterprise expects them to assist in business innovation. This means that the other 43% of respondents are expected only to continue assisting the enterprise with managing its technologies.
  • As an influencer, it is also the CIO’s responsibility to bridge the gap in expectations through communication. The CIO has the responsibility of influencing the enterprise to elevate the position of the IT department from a support function to one which can deliver strategic value to the company through innovation.
  • Finally, it is also the CIO’s role to lead the enterprise in embracing Digital Transformation. As a C-suite executive regularly interacting with other C-level executives, the CIO has the capacity to influence the organization’s culture with regards to technology.

The CIO as a Change Leader

  • The rapid changes in technology can be overwhelming. Enterprises need someone who can help them navigate through and manage these changes. The CIO’s background and knowledge of the company’s IT ecosystem makes him or her well suited to steer the enterprise as it navigates the waves of Digital Transformation sweeping across industries.
  • For instance, the proliferation of cloud technologies has enabled other departments, such as Finance or Marketing, to adopt and implement individual and ad hoc technologies like Quickbooks and Salesforce. While this change has shifted some of the operational functions away from IT, such as the implementation of new technologies, it also frees up the IT department to perform more strategic tasks such as finding, initiating, and proposing innovations.
  • The CIO is in the ideal position to guide IT in its new role as innovators. Also, because other departments generally do not have the expertise in adopting and implementing new technologies for the enterprise, the CIO can help them manage these changes and continue to support them. Finally, the CIO must also ensure the security and harmony of technologies in the enterprise’s IT ecosystem in spite of the presence of ad hoc and cloud technologies.

What Role is Your IT Department Playing?

Each role has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, focusing on the operational role allows the CIO and the IT department to ensure the smooth and secure operations of the business. At the same time, it also enables them to ensure the quality of data supplied to the enterprise. However, focusing too much on their operational role may prevent them from coping with the changes in technology and the enterprise may end up lagging behind in Digital Transformation.

On the other hand, focusing on their transformational role can help the enterprise in creating efficiencies, developing new businesses, and gaining deeper insights into customers through technology. However, compromising their operational roles may also compromise the quality of data and lead to redundant or inconsistent data because of ad hoc technologies. The lack of governance may also lead to incompatible or redundant technologies which can cost the enterprise significant amounts of time and money in the long run.
While some of the operational functions of the CIO and the IT department has shifted to other departments, they should still strive to find the right balance between these two complementing roles.

Supporting the CIO in Navigating Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation affects the CIO in both of his roles, in operations and in transformation leadership. Digital Transformation enables organizations to open up new sales channels, penetrate new markets and find opportunities, increase revenues, and improve overall efficiency. But digital transformation depends on capturing, integrating, and utilizing high quality data.

OpenText’s ALLOY platform ensures that quality data is supplied to the enterprise. Delivering a comprehensive integration and data management solution that cleanses, harmonizes, enriches, secures, and consolidates data coming from all corners of the enterprise, OpenText helps the CIO in fully embracing and achieving a Digital Transformation. Contact us to learn more.

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