The importance of CIOs aligning innovation and IT with business goals


The importance of CIOs aligning innovation and IT with business goals

Tale of Two CIOs – Embracing the Business Imperative with Cloud Strategies – Part One.

The pace of change for the tech leader’s role has increased with digital disruption and the emergence of cloud platforms. It pays to understand how to overcome the challenges facing today’s CIO. In part 1 of this series, we explore the challenges in balancing operations versus innovation.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

Today’s CIO might recognise their role in this famous quote, considering it is more dynamic yet complex than ever. They are performing what looks like a juggling act perched on top of a high wire – shifting apps and workloads to the cloud, integrating legacy software with off-premises apps, keeping networks and systems secure... at the same time as demonstrating leadership in digital transformations, keeping an eye on customer satisfaction and driving business innovation.

This balancing act is played out again in the most recent CIO State of the Nation survey, published by IDG, which found that being a CIO is like having two separate jobs. It’s not surprising that 87 per cent agree (either strongly or somewhat) that the CIO role is becoming increasingly challenging, with slightly less (77 per cent) agreeing that the role is becoming more rewarding.

However, it’s clear that the role is becoming more important than ever to business (72 per cent agree), so it’s important that CIOs understand how to align innovation and IT initiatives with business goals.

Australian CIOs are still struggling to simplify and upgrade IT and improve security, while simultaneously focusing on customer acquisition and retention, leading product innovation and collaborating on customer initiatives. In fact, 81 per cent of tech and digital chiefs agree that they are challenged to find the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence.

How are CIOs faring leading innovation?

A mere two years ago, only 25 per cent of CIOs surveyed were asked to lead product innovation efforts. Fast forward to today (and into the future) and that trend is fast becoming a top priority. Almost triple the number of CIOs will be making a priority of focusing on business innovation over the next three to five years (72 per cent) according to the latest survey respondents.

It’s also a significant jump compared to last year’s response of 43 per cent that are making business innovation a priority.

In other words, CIOs understand they need to make big inroads in transferring their time and attention from ‘keeping the lights on’ activities within the IT department to making supporting business innovation happen.

This shift will require a big change in the way IT has traditionally viewed technology-enabled business innovation – it’s not merely a matter of coming up with technology solutions then shoehorning the business in the direction you want to go. It requires partnering with business stakeholders to consider needs via a consultative approach.

With cloud, we’ve seen many IT chiefs consider providers before assessing what the business needs. In particular, when you consider data and cloud apps are now one of the single biggest services consumed by the business, choosing a cloud provider should be done in conjunction with key business decision makers to ensure success over the long-term.

For example, in many organisations, IT chiefs work closely with Marketing, where budgets are specifically earmarked for investments in technology products – in fact, 51 per cent of respondents to the CIO survey indicated that they expect the marketing divisions to work with them on technology implementations now and within three years.

The depth of consultation varies from business to business, but more than two thirds report they consult with Marketing on requirements, with approximately the same number involving the marketing team in meeting with technology suppliers.

The reason the marketing team is taking up more of the CIO’s time and attention is due to the strategic nature of the department and how close it is to innovating core business ideas –this typically requires technology.

These days, the CIO must embrace his or her role as a strategic player to get a seat at the table in pushing innovation within the business.