As the tides change there are hard questions CIO’s must have with their CEO – aligning their new role post Covid-19 Pandemic

If the CIO wants to be at the ‘Table’ they need to nurture their relationships with the CFO, CMO, and CHRO more than ever, using a non-technology language to address the rapidly evolving digital agenda on business objectives.

For years, the CIO and the technology organisation have clamoured to have “a seat at the table” where the real business decisions are made; it is now more than ever that this becomes a reality for corporates looking to get ahead of the post-COVID blues.

While CIOs are facing a range of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those challenges now allow them to take a larger leadership role as they redefine the future of their businesses.

The virtual video-based conversations and meetings, we have all become so used to, where technology and business agendas rapidly aligned. CEOs expected the CIO office to create new efficiencies, new value and new ways to engage with their staff and customers. CIOs can’t do it alone. They must work with fellow cross-departmental executives, who may be difficult to engage.

“More than two years prior to the pandemic the technology experts were having discussions on how to get more business users to adopt the use of mobility and remote working technologies like video,” states Craig Ashmole, founding Managing Director of London based consulting house CCServe. “The global pandemic catapulted this forward, like no one could have expected, to a future where digital channels and collaboration platforms are the primary, often only, means of connecting with customers, partners and employees”.

Now in a time of sustained uncertainty, many CEOs will turn back to the CIO to accelerate digital business transformation, but to succeed, the CIO must work with other leaders. CIOs must inspire, empower and engage these functional or departmental leaders to build an enduring collaboration around digital.

CIOs need to have renewed conversations with roles in the organisation that have a crucial impact on digital transformation: the chief financial officer, the chief marketing officer, the chief human resources officer, the board of directors and CIOs’ direct reports all need to be accommodated in their often differing respective needs.

What is clearly seen post-pandemic, from the way we all now shop on-line rather than walking the isles of shop floors, and as shown in a recent survey from Mckinsey, new behaviours are beginning to emerge, shifting the way consumers perceive value, loyalty, availability and convenience, as they increasingly shop via digital channels. Given the expected duration of the crisis, these new behaviours are most likely to stick longer-term.

“Another tangible and visual change the pandemic has instilled in society, certainly in the UK market, is the lack or need to use cash, money transactions have largely gone digital and this is likely to remain and grow rather than return to paper”, Craig goes on to comment. “It’s a seismic world-changing event like the one we have all faced in 2020 that has driven rapid acceptance of the evolving digital world that will be the new future of “the norm”.

Looking towards reopening businesses, CIOs have the opportunity to emerge as the leaders shaping their company agendas. With the right mindset and determination, every CIO can co-create with their C-suite colleagues, a new, customer-centric business model powered by a modern technology platform, omnipresent access to data and a frictionless operating model, that can continuously adapt to the changes in the market.

We see many CIOs being measured on their cost of running IT, rather than on the customer value and revenue they enable. As CIOs start to lead business outcome conversations, they must learn to articulate and measure their impact in terms of customer value.

“It is important that CIO’s realise that they are no longer just seeking to gain a seat at the table, but rather, they are setting the new table”, Craig Ashmole goes on to say. “CIOs can no longer assume that the business knows what it needs and wait for their requirements. Instead, CIOs must be change agents and bring together their C-suite colleagues to sit at a new table, defining what technology capabilities are the most appropriate, to deliver the right outcomes for digital business”.

Many CIOs are still being measured on their cost of running IT, rather than on the customer value and revenue they enable. It’s really time that the board move on and as CIOs start to lead business outcome conversations, they must learn to articulate and measure their impact in terms of customer value.

This shift not only involves educating their C-suite colleagues on how to better align technology and other investments to customer-focused initiatives but also shifting their technology teams – and other functional teams – away from project delivery to focus on delivering customer value-added experiences. The CIO office and the technical teams they run need to be ‘Managing Products’ not ‘Managing Projects’.

More than ever before, CIOs are leading from the front, acting as change catalysts for their organisations by making mindset changes.

The CIO office must be the driver of the digital reformation and engage with their C-suite colleagues, helping them reimagine a modern digital business approach to protect long term growth.

CIOs have the unique opportunity to contribute their expertise to enable the most fluid and precious asset in today’s business world: technology itself, and how it has helped so many keep going through one of the most wearisome times this pandemic has thrown at us.

Thanks also to the views from Gartner

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe