The Strategic CIO: Redefining What it Means to Lead Digital

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
Updated May 8, 2023

CIOs, welcome to the tipping point.

As business leaders increasingly prioritize digital transformation, the CIO role has been propelled into a state of rapid evolution.

On top of your traditional responsibilities, leveraging your digital expertise has become instrumental in directing the overall business strategy, increasing competitiveness, and opening new revenue streams.

Strategic CIOs are poised to excel in the age of digital transformation.

Their secret? A broad vision, a refined set of priorities, and the right tools to steer their organization into the future.

The age of digital presents CIOs with a unique opportunity

Traditionally, CIOs have been regarded as “trusted operators,” whose primary duties include managing operational excellence and increasing the scale and complexity of back-end technology.

According to Deloitte’s latest Global CIO Survey report, 55% of CIOs still identify as trusted operators. While the importance of maintaining IT operational efficiency remains, organizations are looking to CIOs to become business partners.

In fact, the IDC predicts that by 2020, 80% of IT executive leadership will be compensated based on their ability to drive key business KPIs, not IT operational measures.

In the age of digital transformation, you have the opportunity to transcend the trusted operator persona — and fully embrace the role of the strategic CIO.

CIO, your legacy awaits. Learn more.

6 priorities of the strategic CIO

Here are the six areas strategic CIOs focus on.

1. Refine and align on key business drivers

How Strategic CIOs Approach Digital Transformation from WalkMe, Inc. on Vimeo.

Virtually all business leaders (96%) identify digital as a strategic business priority, but just 26% reported that their organization has an enterprise-wide digital strategy in place, according to Deloitte.

The absence of a robust digital strategy presents a new opportunity for CIOs to fill the void and work closer than ever before with their CEO.

Once aligned with the CEO’s objectives for digital transformation, CIOs can, in turn, align the other stakeholders and orchestrate the change.

Creating an effective digital strategy cannot occur in a vacuum.

Strategic CIOs understand the importance of seeing the full picture. They learn what the competition is doing, the market forces that influence the business, and the needs of both internal and external customers.

By achieving alignment on overall business priorities, you’ll be far better positioned to develop a digital strategy that sticks.

2. Maximize value from digital investments

Strategic CIOs not only deliver innovative digital products, but they also know how to maximize value from technology investments.

Achieving the highest possible software ROI requires zooming out of the IT realm and zooming into the user experience.

Usability, productivity, and efficiency are the factors that ultimately determine how much value your digital investments will create. The only way to ensure each of these remains high is with a solid digital adoption solution.

A digital adoption solution helps you ensure your employees can use all digital tools as they are intended and to the fullest extent.

With a DAS, complex processes and hard-to-navigate interfaces won’t adversely affect the user experience because the solution will guide employees through confusing tasks, automate mundane processes, and provide actionable insights to improve the user journey.

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to the blog for fresh insights delivered right to your inbox!

3. Develop key leadership skills

strategic cioIn addition to the technological know-how that’s intrinsic to the CIO role, becoming an organizational leader demands a wide range of “soft skills” and a new focus on developing business acumen.

Non-technical skills — such as communication, relationship building, clearly articulating your vision, and motivating staff — are fundamental to being a successful organizational leader.

For many, the transition from the traditional CIO to the strategic CIO will also include a focus on developing these skills.

4. Implement an effective system to manage IT risk and security

Understanding cyber threats, system vulnerabilities, and how to mitigate IT risk is already a top priority for CIOs.

But while most CEOs agree cybersecurity is critical to overall organizational health, many continue to prioritize other business objectives ahead of it.

Strategic CIOs take the initiative to create a robust cybersecurity strategy and reinforce its importance to business performance and customer loyalty.

They hire highly-skilled teams or enlist external experts to ensure all elements of security are covered and establish routine dialogue with traditional decision-makers. By making cybersecurity a key consideration in every business decision, CIOs can more effectively manage risk and prevent a breach.

5. Increase visibility into software usage

strategic cio

Organizations are investing in more software than ever before. Before diving into a new digital initiative, a strategic CIO will evaluate all of the current technology investments across the organization.

To do so, you’ll need full visibility into how software is being used, including cross-application processes

In order to make educated and budget-conscious decisions on which software needs to be replaced and which can be preserved, you’ll need a clear view of what’s working and what’s not. 

Solutions that offer this type of visibility will illuminate opportunities to make high-value software easier to use. For example, they can show you exactly where users experience friction, request support, or drop off altogether. 

With clearer visibility into user behavior, it’s easy to see how to improve usability.

6. Build a foundation to enable continual innovation

Innovation is a defining trait of strategic CIOs. In the age of accelerating digital progress and heightened competition, there’s no longer a place for the status quo.

But effective leaders know they can’t shoulder the responsibility alone.

Instead, they plant the seed to develop a digital culture that encourages all employees to contribute ideas, experiment, and adapt to change.

They also create formal systems for generating innovative digital initiatives that can support and even drive core business objectives.

Seize the opportunity

As businesses continue to invest in digital transformation, CIOs are facing many challenges that, when seen in the correct light, represent a unique professional opportunity.

Embracing the expanded role of the strategic CIO demands a high degree of courage, ambition, and strategic acumen.

With the right solution to support your tremendous efforts, digital transformation will revolutionize your business, your career, and your legacy.

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
WalkMe pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for organizations to utilize the full potential of their digital assets. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and contextual guidance, WalkMe adds a dynamic user interface layer to raise the digital literacy of all users.