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The evolved CIO: What’s your plan as the first port of call when the CEO thinks digital?

Jenny Beresford | Aug. 12, 2016
Let’s be frank – the CEO and CIO in any enterprise participating in the digital economy must be close.

The CEO and CIO must be in such close strategic symbiosis that they co-locate, talk daily, know the business inside-out, safely provoke each other and instantly sense-test the craziest of ideas. They must always retain faith in each other's complementary knowledge and strengths.

When the CEO pivots the business vision to exploit and explore digital possibilities, they must be absolutely assured that their CIO is their close trusted ally - an aligned comrade-at-arms.

Digital today never sleeps. A CEO with ambitions to play on these uneven digital playing fields needs their CIO more than ever. The mantra today for the CEO-CIO relationship is 'close' and 'connected.'

Connected enough to spot and harvest digital business opportunities from inside and outside the enterprise. Enough to make fast decisions on which ideas to test and take to market; to surprise and upturn competitors; flip consumer expectations; and reap value from the delivered reality. This is all done whilst juggling an overflowing innovation cycle.

We've been dodging around this evolving symbiosis of CEO and CIO for years now. We've been making excuses for structural dysfunction when the CIO is left floundering somewhere between products and operations, reporting to CFOs or COOs, or anyone except the ultimate head of the business - the CEO.

This disconnect has been called many names: pragmatism, technical necessity or perhaps operational fit. While we've simultaneously tried to recruit strategic, innovative, futurist, digital-savvy CIOs. It's not very hard to spot the gap between role description and reality.

So let's start to call the CIO role out as the one most likely to have a grip on the digital economy, as well as the talent and technical underpinnings required to design, deliver and assure the digital business model. Today's successful CIO must have fully evolved from operational general management to strategic business leader.

The evolved CIO is the CEO's trusted ally. They are the enterprise's most critical player on the digital playing field, as the importance of connected people, things and data continues to morph and surprise.

The evolved CIO has an extended enterprise-wide remit. It's a rich and influential role - one which demands that they excel at crafting and enabling business strategies just as well as what they've always done, better than anyone else in the c-suite.

That is managing the whole gamut of IT from emerging technologies through to scaled infrastructure and beyond, to the full warp and weave of contemporary digital ecosystems.

The evolved CIO is a scientist, an economist, a creative, and most importantly, an authentic leader of people who can find and bring together exceptional people. People who in turn can form and reform potent agile teams to take ideas and turn the best of them into reality.


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