How Transformative CIOs are shifting IT’s influence and impact

10 minute read 3 Nov 2021
By EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

10 minute read 3 Nov 2021

Watch this Q&A with a leading CIO on the role’s new challenges and priorities.

Highlights

  • This video features Cindy Langston, Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer Elect for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Subodh Jadhav, Senior Manager, Technology Consulting for EY Americas.
  • They discuss how CIOs are evolving, why IT business alignment is now an imperative, and how these shifts impact the war for IT talent.

The pandemic not only accelerated digital transformations of businesses across the globe, it also impacted the role of the CIOs leading those transformation efforts. 

IDG’s State of the CIO 2021 survey found that

82%

of CIOs implemented new technologies due to the pandemic.

IDG’s State of the CIO 2021 survey found that

59%

of CIOs accelerated digital transformation efforts.

Question: How vital is the CIO role is in aligning IT strategy with business strategy to help their organizations successfully navigate disruption, embrace innovation, and manage risk?

Subodh: When the pandemic first struck, the pivot to remote work was one of the first priorities, almost overnight in some cases. It became table stakes for CIOs to deliver.

Cindy: Within a two-week span, 95% of our employees were working from home. I needed to make sure that the technology was available when they needed it. It opened a whole new world for us around security.

CIOs are now charged with supporting a longer-term model that is likely to include some continuous form of remote or hybrid work policies, not mention enhanced digital experiences for customers.

The business-IT imperative

It’s not just the hybrid workplace that is likely here to stay. The CIO has now moved from the server room, as a functional leader, to the board room as a strategic, trusted advisor to the business, creating the Transformative CIO.

The evolving role of the Transformative CIO

96%

of CIOs say their role is expanding beyond traditional IT responsibilities, to include areas such as customer experience and business development

The evolving role of the Transformative CIO

68%

of CIOs say their responsibilities include the creation of new revenue-generating initiatives.

The majority surveyed, 63%, now say business and leadership skills are more important than technology skills.

Question: Why is that type of business-focused mindset being adopted by more CIOs?

Cindy: No longer are we back with our team talking about technical solutions, but the CEOs are looking for us to sit at the table with them, be a part of the conversations, and to help drive those business problems, letting technology enable it.

Subodh: The boards truly expect more frequent and ongoing engagement. This new level of IT and business alignment allows the CIO to make smarter investments that support core business objectives. Closer alignment lets CIOs and their teams adapt IT architectures more quickly to address changing business needs. Transformative CIOs create the line of sight from technology investments to the operational changes they drive, to the business value they create. Creating the line of sight creates transparency and that in turn creates confidence.

Cindy: I’ve created a functional area that works directly with the business to understand those strategic imperatives and then make sure that we align our technology strategy right along with the business. These are things that we have to do to move quickly. Things change on a dime with the business. One day we’re moving forward with one decision, two days later the market has changed, and we must react to that immediately.

Question: How can you position technology investments in the context of business goals rather than IT projects to increase buy-in for transformation initiatives?

Subodh: Let me give you a very common example. An ERP modernization discussion can come up triggered by the vendor. The Transformative CIO can frame it as an opportunity for functional transformation: to drive actions and behavior; to engage their business counterparts and create a next shared vision for future of the functions; articulate the business value from those investments; and then radiate those same behaviors to the teams lower in the organization, so that they can work hand in hand to execute on that vision. That’s how you drive change; that’s how you create a real impact.

The talent imperative

Transformative CIOs know that their success depends in large part on the team around them. But building – and retaining – a great team continues to be a challenge. 

In response to shifting priorities and accelerated transformations,

69%

of CIOs are re-evaluating IT skill sets due to the impact of the pandemic

In response to shifting priorities and accelerated transformations,

72%

are making diversity and inclusion a priority during the IT hiring process.

Question: How has winning the war for IT talent in the modern workplace taken a few turns lately?

Subodh: Diverse teams help unlock value; and it’s not just diversity in the more traditional sense of gender and race. It’s also diversity in part, experiences, demographics, and skills. The successful IT organization of tomorrow driving the transformational agenda is not going to be a monolith of smart technologists from the best engineering schools. There will need to be a blend of what I call BDT – business, design, and technology – where the ability to frame issues in terms of business challenges and articulate business value – the ability to put humans at the center of large technology decisions; think in terms of experience over efficiency – will be just as important as upskilling on new and emerging technologies.

Cindy: Understanding what’s important to your employees is a way that you’ll be able to keep that great talent.

Subodh: Executives and managers need to know their teams, their motivations, their passions. What gives them energy, brings them value? People want stretch opportunities and feel suffocated when there isn’t a challenge.

Summary

Hybrid work, business alignment and a more diverse approach to talent management all adds up to a seismic recasting of the role of the CIO.

About this article

By EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

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