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CIOs who master digital transformations will win CEO jobs

Clint Boulton | March 14, 2016
CIOs who work closely with CEOs to direct digital strategies will eventually find themselves in the CEO’s seat themselves, according to Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.

Benioff's opining on the evolving role of the CIO was a response to a CIO's question about how CIOs should deal with shadow IT. More than a decade ago, Salesforce.com annoyed CIOs by selling its cloud-based CRM software directly to sales and marketing departments that paid by swiping their corporate credit cards. On Monday, Benioff acknowledged that shadow IT has empowered CMOs and other business line leaders to be "mini-CIO" serving their employees as customers.

Not every CIO is a ’transformer’

Although Benioff was bullish on the power of digital transformations as well as their power to shake up the C-suite, Forbes Insights suggests that the reality is more nuanced. While some CIOs are guiding their organizations’ digital transformations, others remained more confined to more traditional roles managing and deploying of technology. Others fall somewhere in between.

Thirteen percent of respondents said their CIOs are "transformers" serving as full partners to the business in digital transformations. Another 43 percent are "advocates,” meaning that while their organizations haven’t fully embraced digital, they are piloting or exploring digital projects. However, 37 percent of executives are “servicers: who develop digital capabilities in response to requests or guidance from other business units. Lastly, 7 percent identified as “plumbers,” engaged in running the traditional tasks of IT, such as provisioning servers.

The digital disruption, including the evolution to cloud, data analytics, social and mobile capabilities that underpin digital transformations, is such that customers are beginning to resemble cloud vendors, Benioff says. Many Salesforce.com customers provide cloud services to their customers, operate on a deferred revenue model and move faster to product high rates of innovation, Benioff says. That's leading to larger contracts with cloud providers such as Salesforce.com, which last month announced that it had inked two nine-figure contracts.

"Today, you are witnessing a movement where every company is becoming a cloud company that I work with," Benioff says. "Companies want to make [cloud] our standard for our enterprise... and that is also really the maturation of the cloud."

 

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