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5 essential habits of today's highly effective CIO

How has the evolving role of Chief Information Officer changed?

What makes a great CIO?

The role of CIO has never been more vital, or more difficult to define. A rapidly changing technological landscape is challenging every organization’s top techie to put out fires while igniting innovation.

With new cyber threats emerging daily and with innovation top of mind in nearly every industry, the CIO is quickly emerging as one of the most important seats at the C-suite table.

Today’s CIO dictates the organization’s relationships with risk, serves as an enabler of business agility and is responsible for anticipating and harnessing disruptive forces, all while mitigating risk and reducing vulnerabilities.

With mounting internal and external pressures, it’s no wonder that 87 per cent of nearly 650 IT leaders polled by IDG indicated the role of the CIO is more challenging than ever before. Here are five roles CIOs must fulfill today.

1. Leading digital transformation

Bringing legacy systems into the modern era and making them future-ready is a top priority for the modern CIO, though many continue to struggle with it. According to Gartner’s 2016 CIO Agency Survey, less than 40 per cent of CIOs indicated they were overseeing the company’s digital transformation efforts.

Instead, the role more commonly falls to CEOs, CMOs, Chief Digital Officers and other C-suite executives. Digital transformation requires collaboration across departments, but CIOs should strive to be the leader of those efforts, not just the facilitator.

2. Increasing organizational speed and agility 

No matter how quickly an organization’s IT department is moving, it never seems to be fast enough. Improving flexibility and agility, however, are vital survival skills in a landscape that requires constant adaptability.

Smaller organizations need to remain nimble in order to challenge slower moving giants, while large organizations remain under constant threat of disruption.

As a result, today’s IT departments need to have the tools and ability to build and destroy products and features in real time, collecting feedback and adjusting on the fly. This requires the utilization of cloud-based platforms, development tools and infrastructure to reach an ever-increasing standard of speed and agility.

3. Improving talent acquisition and development

It’s a solidified cliché, but today, every company is a tech company, which means that highly skilled workers are in high demand across nearly every industry.

CIOs need to not only ensure they are meeting their current talent needs, but also that they’re filling the pipeline with specialists and talent that can help carry the organization’s IT department into the future.

Listing those skills and passing them off to the HR department, however, is far from enough. The modern CIO is now also responsible for cultivating a culture and work environment that is able to attract the industry’s top talent.

4. Focusing on customer experience

Customer expectations are constantly skyrocketing, and it’s up to the IT department to provide their organization with the tools and capabilities they need to keep up. Business processes and customer interactions need to be quick, secure and flawless at an enterprise scale, which will require CIOs to innovate in order to deliver.

Today’s most effective CIOs aren’t just talking about customer-centricity, they’re actually speaking with customers directly and collaborating with colleagues in every department, all in an effort to understand how they can best enable a greater customer experience.

Many, however, are still not getting the memo, as only 45 per cent of CIOs believe their IT organization actually helps improve customer experience, according to Deloitte’s 2016-2017 Global CIO Survey.

5. Providing strategic insight

With technological innovation at the heart of most business functions today, CIOs become most valued when they are the designers, promoters and facilitators of a broad IT vision and strategy for the organization.

One in three respondents in Deloitte’s Global CIO Survey, however, admitted that the capacity to do so was lacking within their IT practice.

Having an underlying strategy and vision provides the department with a clear articulation of its purpose and its goals. The vision should also evolve alongside changing technological capabilities, business needs and the competitive landscape.

Up Next: Discover what is most important to CIOs.

What’s on your CIO’s priority list?

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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