Bouncing Back: The Reinvention of the CIO

Publish date:

The new breed of CIO is no longer measured by their ability to balance budgets, manage IT resources, or avert risk.

The need to drive digital growth has become unavoidable, and much to the chagrin of CIOs, it took creating an entirely new role to achieve it: the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), a role only a few had heard of ten years ago. The CIO’s traditional role has been to manage information risk and make sure that IT costs were reduced year on year through productivity improvements. However, as digital tech became a core part of every business operation, CIOs became increasingly side-lined and the CDO was born. The CDO became the natural ally of the CEO. They spoke the same language, they shared the same goals, and they were both firmly focused on how technology can complement the business strategy. But, there’s one thing the CIO has that the CDO doesn’t: intimate, hands-on experience of driving technology change while still mitigating the information risk.

As digital transformation accelerates, it demands new platforms, delivery models and deep strategies like cloud-native development. This isn’t the consumer-focused tech that helped the CDO rocket to success; this is the CIO’s bread and butter. This means the CIO is poised for a serious comeback. What must today’s CIO do to retake their seat alongside the CEO? And if you’ve already proven yourself an ambitious IT leader, what can you do to make a successful play for the CDO’s role?

Trait one: Focus on revenue generation through digital enablement

The new breed of CIO is no longer measured by their ability to balance budgets, manage IT resources, or avert risk. They’ve become technical visionaries, trusted by all to guide and enable revenue generation through digital innovation.

The new CIO is interested in solutions, not budgetary constraints. They ask questions, provide answers, build roadmaps, identify talent, and nurture skills. They are trusted by their team and the board to lead the organization towards a brighter digital future. The old-style CIO, in comparison, was more like a CFO—but that’s not your role. You’re not there to balance the books, you’re there to enable innovation.

Trait two: Encourage an engineering culture

The new CIO is no laggard, and certainly not someone to be side-lined by the leadership. In our recent research on cloud-native applications, 65% of respondents say driving cloud-native migration is a significant cultural challenge. As such, it falls upon the CIO to display strong leadership skills and develop a new cloud-based culture among their teams and fellow leaders.

The new CIO has a greater responsibility as a technologist. If businesses are to achieve increased velocity, flexibility, and drive continuous innovation (with DevOps and continuous delivery); the CIO needs to educate, enable, and enforce. This means earning a place at the table, trusted by your leadership peers to guide the direction and strategy the business needs to take to innovate and grow. Understand your responsibility, demonstrate the value of your chosen solutions, and push a digital transformation agenda that your peers can’t refuse. You’re not the underdog, you’re a leader.

Trait three: Become a driver of business goals

Joining the new breed of CIO doesn’t mean abandoning your team, in fact, you’ll become more involved in developing their talent and skills than ever before. If you establish goals that can be realized by your IT teams, you’ll naturally become a trusted driver of business goals.

This also means positioning your teams not as a cost-center, but as a revenue generator, a vital business asset driven by a culture of innovation. You need to be able to spot key talent among your teams—does the spreadsheet administrator consistently show a spark of ingenuity? With your guidance, they could be tomorrow’s leading tech innovators.

Inspire your teams to meet the needs of the customer, but don’t fear pushing them to bring new ideas to the fore. This isn’t about upsetting the CEO or CFO with misspent budgets, it’s about establishing your teams as an innovative force—achieve that, and there’s no way your leading peers won’t listen.

A classic comeback

Flexibility, scalability, cost-reduction, and business velocity—these are common goals everyone can get behind. Cloud native can help your business achieve them, but only with the right leadership.

You know the tech, you know your people, and you know what’s missing from your cloud-native strategy. The steps you take as CIO today will shape your company’s digital future – it’s time to introduce everyone to the trusted, vocal enabler you’ve always been.

To learn more about the barriers CIOs face today in driving innovation, and how they can overcome them, download the full report: Cloud native comes of age.

Related Posts


Don’t just replace human activities, make RPA transformational  

Date icon September 25, 2018

Enterprises should focus on where and how an ‘RPA’ fits in the overall...

Business Process Management

Project Success – it’s not just IT

Vijay Karna
Date icon April 13, 2017

Organizations have been investing a lot on IT but struggling to concentrate on core...