A new charter for IT
For many organisations, it is increasingly difficult to separate business strategy from technology. In fact, the future of many industries is inextricably linked to harnessing emerging technologies and disrupting portions of their existing business and operating models. Other macro-level forces such as globalisation, new expectations for customer engagement, and regulatory and compliance requirements also share a dependency on technology. As a result, CIOs can serve as the critical link between business strategy and the IT agenda, while also helping identify, vet, and apply emerging technologies to the business roadmap.
CIOs are uniquely suited to balancing actuality with inspiration by introducing ways to reshape processes and potentially transform the business without losing sight of feasibility, complexity, and risk. But are CIOs ready to rumble? According to a report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, “57 percent of the business and technology leaders surveyed view IT as an investment that drives innovation and growth.” But according to a Gartner report, “Currently, 51 percent of CIOs agree that the torrent of digital opportunities threatens both business success and their IT organisations’ credibility. In addition, 42 percent of them believe their current IT organization lacks the key skills and capabilities necessary to respond to a complex digital business landscape.”
To remain relevant and become influential business leaders, CIOs should build capabilities in three areas. First, they should put their internal technology houses in order; second, they should leverage advances in science and emerging technologies to drive innovation; and finally, they need to reimagine their own roles to focus less on technology management and more on business strategy. In most cases, building these capabilities will not be easy. In fact, the effort will likely require making fundamental changes to current organisational structures, perspectives, and capabilities. The following approaches may help CIOs overcome political resistance and organisational inertia along the way:
• Work like a venture capitalist
• Provide visibility into the IT “balance sheet”
• Organise assets to address business priorities
• Focus on flexibility and speed.
Irrespective of industry, the African CIO in every company needs to consciously transition from an operator and technologist, to a strategist and catalyst, working with the business to introduce transformative technologies. Therefore, integrating the CIO as part of the executive committee needs to happen as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many businesses are not ready for this discussion as they relegate the CIO to a technical function. Technology is impacting the organisation whether more traditionally-minded businesses want to admit it or not.