By letting go of the ambition to be just as important and powerful as the COO, CFO, or sales chief, CIOs might actually find a better role for themselves and for their companies. Current CIOs who just want to manage operations can manage the reborn MIS departments, while those who want to be strategic can do so as supportive partners to the rest of the company.
Other CIOs — those whose companies are essentally about digital assets and services — should look to become the equivalent of the COO, a role that manages the operations of the business-defining physical processes and therefore is deeply intertwined with the business strategy. There, operations is not a key supporting function but the key function, period.
In a nutshell, there are three possible archetypes for today's CIOs in a post-IT environment:
- The CIO (recast as a CTO) is more of a policy adviser around the use of technology than technocrat, more akin to a chief risk officer, HR director, or chief legal officer.
- The CIO is the digital COO orchestrating processes and flows as a traditional COO does in a manufacturing environment.
- The CIO (recast as the MIS manager) owns the technology platforms as both a sourcing manager and integration specialist, working as an infrastructure expert with CMOs and other business executives.
However the role changes, it should be clear that when a whole profession keeps trying to find a purpose for itself, that's a red flag indicating it's not needed. But smart, strategic technologists and information experts will always be in demand.
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