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By Faisal Parvez, Director, IT & CIO Business Partner, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, BT Global Services
The role of the CIO has changed profoundly as digital technology evolves. Digital transformation now permeates across all organisations and industries, giving rise to new business models, products and services, as well as roles now made possible by digital.
However, the scope of what is digitally possible remains uncertain, characterised by the lack of a blueprint. So what does this mean for the CIO?
BT’s recent global survey of more than 1,000 CIOs shows that CIOs are becoming ever more central to the boardroom and overall business strategy. They are also leading the strategic application of technology across their businesses. Boardrooms expect their CIOs to be a force for innovative and a creative disruptor, who transform the business in creative ways through combining business knowledge and deep technological expertise.
The creative use of technology is absolutely accepted as a differentiator, not just in transforming costs or efficiency, but also in improving the customer experience and enabling disruptive growth. The network sits at the heart of that and acts as the nervous system for businesses.
Disruptive technology-led trends
CIOs are clear on the most disruptive technology-led trends of cloud, mobility, collaboration and data. One in five organisations surveyed already describe themselves as completely cloud-centric, reflecting the level of transformation within global companies.
Choice, agility, speed, flexibility, reliability and security are key criteria for cloud. CIOs are looking for a cloud solution that combines network, cloud services, professional services skills and security expertise to let users connect easily, securely and seamlessly to the applications and data they need. This gives CIOs the confidence to let their partners and colleagues discover their Digital Possible.
When Digital Possible is viewed in the context of service management, it throws the spotlight on the traditional silo-based approach to managing IT and communications services, which has increased complexity and operating costs in step with the rise in technology adoption. The future of digital IT service management will be defined by the ability to manage your network, IT assets and applications from one solution, regardless of what it is, where it is and who is managing it. This requires a solution that isolates the fault domain in the first instance, in a matter of seconds – one that will also offer application visibility and control. True digital service integration calls for better visualization of the service layers which are ICT vendor-agnostic.
Without exception, every CIO considers the digitisation of business to be a personal priority. As a result, CIOs are measuring the success of their organisations against different KPIs compared with 12 months ago.
The disruptive impact of these trends requires a CIO skill-set that embraces faster-paced change. The CIO and IT team are transforming to be more of an enabler and innovator than the command and control centre. Internally, they are also leading, leveraging and managing the rapidly growing ecosystem of partners and vendors. Flexibility around new business needs, faster adoption of technology trends and more agile working practices are now regarded as the CIO’s crucial assets.
Despite the fast-changing CIO role, old practicalities and pressures remain. Nearly two in three senior IT decision makers feel the CIO is forced to spend more time maintaining current IT systems, than to search for new solutions.
Senior IT decision makers polled also cited pressures from the digital transformation creating new challenges for the CIO, such as implementing digital strategy organisation-wide, developing new business models to cope with increased connectivity and engagement, and finding the right talent.
Our survey shows that many business leaders driving digital transformation are not in IT, with almost one-fifth of IT spending in the next two years taking place outside the IT department. The relationship between IT and the increasingly empowered end-user is more complex. However, CIOs are not threatened by this and see it as an opportunity for IT to work better in partnership with other parts of the organisation.
As champions of positive change, CIOs are seeing their IT function become a key enabler across the organisation. The IT team’s new role sees it adapting to give the business flexibility, while ensuring data security, robust infrastructure and efficiencies of scale across the organisation.
Welcome to the digital CIO
Technology has never been more vital, with one CIO telling us that “This is the age of the network”.
Today, CIOs need to be strategic, creative, growth-oriented and cost-conscious. They need to understand both technology and people, and balance control with empowerment. The most successful CIOs are embracing change rather than resisting it.
This makes the digital CIO one of the most demanding roles in business today.
At BT, we are listening to what our CIOs are telling us – and using their views to steer us in our Cloud of Clouds investments, to support their needs and ambitions in the digital era.