The Expanding Role of the CIO in 2017

The CIO balancing act continues

Technology continues to drive change in the enterprise and CIOs are leading the initiatives that are changing almost every aspect of how their companies will operate and grow in the digital age. Besides taking on a strategic role driving innovation, they must also keep maintaining the operational needs of their organizations. With so many priorities, how are CIOs managing?

Recently IDG published the 2017 State of the CIO, revealing new insights into the role of the CIO and the initiatives that they’re focused on this year. Of the nearly 650 IT leaders polled, an overwhelming majority acknowledge a new reality about their roles with 87 percent saying the CIO role is more challenging than ever before with managing both transformation and operational responsibilities becoming a permanent requirement for the job.

Increased expectations for the CIO within the organization

With nearly half (46 percent) of respondents currently reporting directly to the CEO, the expectations have increased for CIOs to lead digital transformation, innovate the customer experience and drive new revenue generation efforts. Specifically, here’s what CIOs said were the top priorities for IT in 2017 from their CEOs:

  • Reach revenue goals (32%)
  • Upgrade IT and security (32%)
  • Simplify IT (31%)
  • Lead product innovation (28%)
  • Plan for customer acquisition and retention (21%)
  • Collaborate on customer initiative (17%)

CEOs have also tasked their CIOs with the role of fostering partnerships with business executives across their organizations. One key partner for IT is marketing and this year, 46 percent of CIOs described the CMO-CIO relationship as much or somewhat closer than it had been a year ago. 93 percent said they are involved in some aspect of the marketing technology purchase process and more than half of CIOs identified that they’re involved in every aspect of marketing technology purchase decisions. From meeting with potential vendors, negotiating terms of service and SLAs, making final vendor selections and overseeing implementation, CIOs and their IT teams are flexing their collaboration skills. 

Even with these growing expectations, a majority of CIOs (62%) are embracing the challenges and increased responsibilities within their organizations and say the job today is more rewarding than in the past.

Investment priorities

In addition to integrating CEO priorities, CIOs are continuing focus on traditional responsibilities that include managing workload migrations to the cloud, maintaining and upgrading networks and systems while ensuring their security. Due to the high profile cyber-attacks and data breaches in 2016, security continues to be a top priority. The good news on the security front is that it is moving from a standalone responsibility to more of an intertwined aspect of IT strategies which ensures security concerns are addressed more holistically. CIOs are also prioritizing technology investments in customer experience (40%), operational efficiency (35%) and transforming business processes (34%).

Another recent study identified the top technologies that CIOs are planning to invest the most in this year:  

1. Security

2. Software and Cloud Services

3. Storage

4. Switching and Routing 

5. Servers

6. Mobile

7. Unified Communications

Shifting focus to strategy and innovation

As new responsibilities pile on, IDG’s study found that many CIOs are also taking advantage of automation and improvements in operational proficiencies to focus more strategic issues such as business innovation, competitive differentiation opportunities and new go-to-market strategy and technology development. Shifting some focus to strategic challenges is a smart move for CIOs wanting to stay relevant within their organizations.

Oracle recently compiled their fifth annual list of Top 10 Strategic CIOs for 2017, to provide a “high level call to action” for IT leaders to tackle and it includes:

1. Lead your company’s digital transformation, don’t just facilitate it

2. Stop talking about “customer-centricity” and the “customer experience” and start living it

3. Put software and data analytics at the center of your company: the IOT challenge

4. Do everything faster

5. Give your developers the gift of speed

6. Recommit to the most important acronym: HR

7. Put what data you can in the cloud to shore up security

8. Start closing or consolidating data centers

9. Figure out what artificial intelligence can do for your company and organization

10.Finally lay out a plan for escaping the 80/20 trap

The CIO of the future

With technology being so crucial to the future of the enterprise, the expanding role of the CIO in 2017 is just the beginning. IT organizations and IT partner must also step up to the challenge.