Leading from the Front: The CIO’s Challenges

At risk of preaching to the choir, the changes in the technology world today are beyond significant. Computing is rapidly leaving the confines of traditional technology corridors, presenting itself to a broader audience who are growing eagre to engage with the new opportunities it presents.

If this is in doubt, just look at voice interaction systems. These were a pipe dream at the start of this century and a gimmick hardly a decade ago. Yet today voice is growing fast, and for a specific reason: with voice, the technology comes to the user. We are already at a stage where technology interactions are being dictated by the user, without that user needing to gain specific skills in order to engage with their desired technology.

It’s a beachhead that was established decades back with personal computers, one which has since grown to establish a new reign of technology: where the user does all the commanding. These changes are not happening in isolation, but are the result of a wholesale shift in the technology world – one often called the 4th Industrial Revolution and less commonly Cloud-to-Edge.

This revolution is an incredible opportunity to change gears and empower businesses – and countries – at entirely new levels. The costs of services are going down while the access to cheaper computing means companies can develop their technology differentiators in new and faster ways.

Yet just as a diesel ship can’t suddenly run on atomic power, a company can’t simply jump onto this bandwagon. It needs to transform – and much of that responsibility lies with the CIO. In order to imbue the characteristics 21st century companies will need, CIOs face numerous challenges, including:

Centralise technology strategy
Business and digital technology have been growing inseparable since the eighties. But until recently it had been apt and useful to still keep a separation between them. CIOs largely stuck to keeping the back office systems and infrastructure running. Yet today digital platforms are vital for fast and responsive companies. Business is all about strategy, and since technology is growing more strategically important it must be treated as such an imperative. But it’s up to the CIO to champion a centralised technology strategy that fits the business.

Manage business expectations
As technology becomes more accessible to non-technical users, they take ownership of these tools and then build their own expectations upon that. Unfortunately, as Arthur C. Clarke quipped, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. If a business crowd are very enamoured with their technology yet have no idea of its actual capacity, they might start expecting magic to happen. CIOs often find themselves as the ones bringing a sense of reality and balance to business expectations, not only to defer impossible ambitions but also to instill a better regard of technology’s true potential. After all, strategies built on unachievable fantasies are often as dangerous as no strategy at all.

Meet business expectations
Companies may have unrealistic expectations from their technology. But they also have very realistic ones which can grow quite demanding. This is the double edge of modern technology’s transformation: it is so empowering and so wholesale that shooting for the Moon is actually possible – especially if competitors are doing it. Above all, it’s the CIO’s role to meet those expectations, aligning IT’s power with business’ desires. Those desires are not just based on outcomes, but affect the very fabric of the business. New talent can often be attracted or repulsed by the technology choices of a company. CIOs are also expected to help deliver the profit expectations that new technologies promise.

Lead IT transformation
The business components are not the only entities facing major change in this modern era. IT itself needs to shift how it does things if it hopes to add true value. The old ways are becoming obsolete, and with that vast amounts of skills and best practice are threatened. Not all of that is destined for discontinuation, but it’s up to a savvy CIO to make those evaluations and transform IT to reflect new norms. Not doing so creates a gap from the business and encourages uncontrolled technology inputs such as shadow IT. It also increases security risks at a time when cohesive security strategies are key to business survival.

The CIO is a relatively new presence in the business world, having only arrived in the 1980s. But this position’s growing and vital significance to companies is a clear sign of how the landscape has changed. It’s not absurd to suggest that CIOs might one day as valid candidates to lead companies as the COO or CFO.

Are you on the way to become a Connected CIO, the CIO that can lead this change and take their companies into a prosperous future? This is very key in rising nations, where the 4th industrial revolution offers a chance to leapfrog, to get ahead and become established as the leaders of this new epoch.

To learn more, download a free digital copy of the Dell EMC Connected CIO book and contact Dell EMC to learn about our complimentary CIO events and roundtables. We have made it our vision to deliver on the potential and promises of these new technologies, but they only have worth if they find meaning in your business.

The future of business is in the hands of the CIO, the Connected CIO. Are you ready?

About the Author: Dell Technologies