April 18, 2016

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CIO/CTO: The New Matchmaker in the 21st Century Enterprise

There’s been a digital storm brewing around us for a while now. It’s been referred to by a variety of terms such as the Nexus of Forces, 3rd platform transformation, or the SMAC revolution, leading to an emergence of the DX economy. Through this turbulence, as digitalization moved from the periphery to the center of business strategy, CTO’s and CIO’s have been at the helm guiding their organizations, at times with difficulty, through this transformation.

As technologists, we are quite aware that rapid change demands rapid adaptability. We are also acutely aware that the urgency is real. As IDC pointed out in its FutureScape 2016, this is a high stakes game and the pressure is on as organizations pull away from the pack with bold digital bets, while others are failing, and, may not be in existence in the near future. Yet, while the industry spotlights have been focused on the technological advances in IoT and digitalization, there have been some significant changes backstage as well – transforming the very role of the CIO/CTO.

Just yesterday, the CIO/CTO role entailed building the technology infrastructure to support and catalyze business growth. The key word here was “build” as the job involved understanding the broad business objectives and in turn providing a robust infrastructure to support all its technology requirements. However, in the current scheme of things, the imperatives of a CIO/CTO are quite the opposite. Today, the role demands dismantling and untethering legacy infrastructure to unshackle a business, making it more agile, more dynamic with a digital infrastructure, allowing it to innovate and grow based on the dynamics of a fast-moving market.

It is predicted that the scale-up of digital business strategies will become the main driver for enterprise IT spending in the next 24 months. By 2017, over 50 percent of organizations' IT spending is expected to be for 3rd platform technologies, solutions, and services, rising to over 60 percent by 2020. Therefore, “Cloud First” is expected to be the new mantra of the 21st century CIO/CTO as they balance the new towers of agility and cost efficiency in infrastructure, leveraging the interplay of SMAC technologies to create an environment that is conducive to change – rapid change. As such, the CIO/CTO role is no longer one of a technician nor architect, but, that of a facilitator, an orchestrator, who matches business users to the most appropriate resources, per their business needs – with simplicity and speed.

The question that emerges in this volatile climate is: Are IT professionals aware of this change? Are they asking the right questions? Are they empathetic and aware of the imperatives across diverse business functions to enable simplicity and agility in a digital business? As the harbingers of change, have they equipped themselves to handle this shift holistically to build a successful foundation for the execution of DX business initiatives. Do they understand what GE means when it publicly proclaims that it is “an industrial company… it is a digital company”.

What is interesting is that a survey by IDG research shows that most IT executives already recognize their roles as evolving into becoming brokers of services – a facilitator bringing together relevant parties as per their needs. As many as 32 Percent of IT executives surveyed rated this transformation of the IT function as critical or a high priority. Of these, the ones in large and mid-size companies were found twice as likely to rate the initiative as high priority in comparison to those in small companies. And it does not stop at recognition. There are concrete steps being taken in this direction. Nearly half – 48 percent of those surveyed – said they had made moderate progress in the transformation of IT into a “Broker of Services” while another 12 percent claimed significant progress.

The emerging role is one that looks “more like a consultancy to the business rather than the keeper and controller of all things technical,” writes Tom Kaneshige in CIO.com. It is now widely acknowledged that just improving IT performance isn’t enough to grasp the digital opportunity anymore. There is a need for leaders to embed digital in all parts of the business. According to a Gartner survey, 75 percent of CIOs in Asia/Pacific and Japan have recognized that to succeed in digital business they need to adapt their leadership style from "control" to "visionary" in the next three years.

I strongly agree. There is a pressing need today for CIOS/CTOs to wear new lenses, to quickly evolve and embrace a new leadership style that looks outside the comfort zones of technology to get a hands-on view of business from the trenches – the professional traits of a 21st Century Enterprise leader. The 21st century CIO/CTO is as much a business executive as a technology leader. To understand the mandates across the spectrum of business functions is essential to implement the full digital spectrum of relevant agile, cost beneficial solutions across the enterprise ecosystem. In other words, the CIO/CTO has to formally take on the leadership role of a trusted matchmaker in the 21st Century Enterprise, a manager of a composable portfolio of solutioning services, to facilitate a successful marriage between the business, and, its resourced solution sets, working together towards enterprise leadership in a digital future.