2019 Outlook for the CIO Role

by Beverly Harvey

What You Need to Know this Year to Level Up as a Chief Information Officer

CIOIn the past, regard and expectations for CIOs have been a bit underwhelming, with some even joking that CIO stands for “Career Is Over.” Those expectations are changing, however. Strategic thinking – spotting new revenue opportunities and implementing operational innovations – now have become a far more valued weapon in the CIO’s arsenal than in the past. In fact, nearly two-thirds of CIOs say that creating new revenue-generating initiatives is among their job responsibilities, notes the 2019 State of the CIO report from CIO magazine. It’s all about harnessing technology to create business value.

As with virtually all C-suite roles, the customer has taken on increasing importance. To effectively generate revenue, CIOs must be more closely in touch with customer needs.

In an article about CIO 2019 trends, Naomi Eide writes, “unlike in years past, CIOs are making headway in the C-suite, influencing technology and business strategy as the importance of IT is understood. As technology’s role is increasing, the role of the CIO is maturing.” Eide cites a greater awareness of “technology’s ability to make business bottom-line goals possible.”

The CIO plots out better, faster routes to advancing the business by leveraging existing data and sourcing new information. The executive in this role envisions the digital enterprise’s future. The CIO also oversees security and resilience, leverages ecosystems, and designs the IT operating model.

The pressure is on for CIOs, however, because of what Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, describes as “the dramatic effect technology is having on key areas like personal health, insurance, and agriculture.” The rapidly changing nature of technology makes CIO the “toughest corporate job in America right now” in Hurd’s view.

Key Competencies for the 2019 CIO Role

As with all C-Suite roles, leadership, communication, and influencing skills are identified as indispensable to success. The 2019 State of the CIO report reveals that 78 percent of CIOs report that they are communicating with the Board of Directors more than ever before, up from 67 percent in 2018. And influence is cited by Natalie Whittlesey, CIO practice director at Harvey Nash UK, as “the key skill an IT leader will need to display.”

In your career-marketing communications, showcase the following competencies that you possess:

  • Fusing business and technology strategy: Strategic thinking, planning, and influencing business-growth objectives
  • Ability to accomplish business transformation through digital transformation. In the 2019 State of the CIO report, 88 percent of CIO respondents said they are more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts.
  • Customer focus, understanding, and engagement
  • Storytelling; ability to make the complex simple
  • Innovation
  • Forward-thinking
  • Network, alliance, and relationship building
  • Interpersonal awareness
  • Developing others
  • Results focus
  • Software-development management
  • Project management
  • Change management
  • Ability to drive agility
  • Business and financial acumen (Many CIOs today attain an MBA)

Level-Up Tips

Writing in Forbes, Peter High observes that “not long ago, it may have seemed absurd to think of the CIO as an important stop on the way to the top role in the company.” But High goes on to cite “a growing cadre of former CIOs who have been promoted or hired into positions that continue to take advantage of their technical acumen, but provide them with expanded purviews.” Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CIO role, expand their horizons in an existing CIO role, or even rise beyond the CIO role:

  • Become super-savvy in business. Those who’ve advanced beyond the CIO role tend to have an MBA or advanced degree in a business discipline and may have previously worked in other business disciplines, High reports, leading them to place business value above technology. Successful CIO aspirants to other roles also often have consulting backgrounds.
  • Network and build relationships. In a CIO report from EY, networking and building relationships topped the list of the list of things that CIOs should do to gain promotion.
  • Think of your role as part R&D on behalf of the company. This approach means listening to and understanding the customer and the customer’s needs. With the customer in mind, research is more focused on solutions than the technology itself.
  • Be aware of and build on what makes you marketable as a CEO. Although Blair Shiver notes in CIO magazine no “significant trend of CIOs transitioning into CEO roles,” she states that “it’s absolutely undeniable that the people- and process-management skills developed within an IT leadership position are vital for driving growth across entire organizations.” It’s easy to speculate that as CIOs continue to build their portfolios of business skills, they will be considered for CEO positions.

CIO Trends to Watch in 2019

  • Cybersecurity: CIOs will leverage new methods of risk mitigation. Those in the CIO role will be looking beyond traditional approaches to cybersecurity. In addition, 72 percent of respondents in CIO Tech Poll: Tech Priorities 2019 said they were spending more on cybersecurity in 2019.
  • Mastery of technologies at the forefront is required of CIOs: These include edge-to-cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), Hybrid and Multi-Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), as well as Blockchain.
  • Increasing pressure to create an innovation environment will challenge CIOs: Citing Natalie Whittlesey, Angelica Mari writes in Computer Weekly that CIOs need to show “evidence of bringing in innovation that’s had a direct impact on a business, evidence of handling a complex stakeholder base often spanning geographical boundaries and multiple brands, as well as being commercially minded – which increases ability to talk business to the board.”
  • Digital transformation is a top business priority: “Any way you look at it, the largest growth opportunities that most organizations can access now is to better seize the white space in … rapidly expanding digital markets,” writes Dion Hinchcliffe on ZDNet.

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