The Future CIO: Top Predictions for the Role in Years to Come
The CIO’s role has been evolving for years – today’s CIO looks quite different from yesterday’s CIO and the future CIO will vary even more so.
Historically, the CIO has been responsible for IT services management, maintenance, and delivery. While IT operations still remain a major part of the modern CIOs’ domain, the balance is shifting towards digital strategy, digital innovation, business strategy, and organizational change.
But how long will these trends continue and where will they lead?
According to a report by the consultancy SpencerStuart, there are two schools of thought when it comes to the trajectory of the future CIO:
- Growing technological complexity will increase the need for CIOs with a heavier background in technical specialties and engineering
- People and processes will become more important, so CIOs should be business and consumer-oriented
Naturally, only time will tell what the future holds. Given today’s ubiquity of technology, we can safely assume that IT will play an increasingly central role in business in the years ahead.
Below, we’ll examine how today’s trends will reshape the role of the future CIO.
Predictions for the years ahead
Today’s CIO has become a hybrid role, whose duties include both operational management as well as business strategy.
A report by IDG found that:
- 95% of CIOs say that their role is expanding beyond traditional IT to include other responsibilities, such as cybersecurity and the customer experience
- 46% identify themselves as “transformational” CIOs
- 29% identify themselves as business strategists
- Around a quarter identify as functional CIOs
These statistics paint a clear picture that the CIO’s role is shifting towards one that is strategic and transformational.
IDG is not the only firm that has noticed this trend, however.
Gartner has also pointed out that the CIO’s mandate is widening – and they have also suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic has actually strengthened CIOs’ relationships with the business.
As a result of the pandemic:
- 66% increased strength of the CIO-CEO relationship
- 70% of CIOs are leading high-impact initiatives
- 80% of CIOs are educating other senior stakeholders on the value of IT
- 69% of boards reported accelerating digital business initiatives as a result of the pandemic
- 76% of CIOs saw boosted demand for digital products and services
- 83% expect to see increased demand in 2021
The CIO’s role has been evolving for years and, for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated that evolution.
This trend will almost certainly continue for the foreseeable future, so we can make some accurate predictions about what a future-focused CIO should come to expect.
Here are a few hats that CIOs will likely begin to wear as we progress into the next decade:
CIO as innovator-in-chief and strategist
These statistics reveal a trend that has been ongoing for quite some time, and since the digital revolution is not slowing down, we can assume that the trend will continue.
As both digital strategists and business strategists, CIOs are being called upon to perform a number of tasks:
- Designing digital transformation strategies and digital business strategies
- Implementing and leading digital initiatives
- Collaborating with other departments on customer initiatives
- Leading efforts designed to boost digital resiliency
In short, today’s CIOs are being called upon to spearhead innovative digital efforts that help their organizations stay competitive and successful in the marketplace.
Since the digital revolution is far from over, so we can fully expect CIOs to take on more strategic responsibilities.
CIO as a change manager
Change management is the discipline dedicated to designing, coordinating, and executing organizational change projects. Since so many of today’s business transformations are digital in nature, it should come as no surprise that CIOs often take a leading role.
Since CIOs are so intimately involved with digitally-driven change projects, they may be required to lead or assist with endeavors such as:
- Creating and maintaining employee training and upskilling efforts
- Driving organizational culture change programs
- Digitizing the employee experience
- Designing and upgrading the digital workplace
In some organizations, change management professionals will oversee the implementation of these types of programs.
In others, CIOs themselves may be required to implement and manage the programs. In such cases, is crucial for CIOs to understand change management best practices, strategies, models, and principles.
CIO as a leader
As CIOs transition to a new, expanded role in the C-suite, they must also be ready to expand their skills and abilities. Though the CIO of yesteryear focused mostly on IT operations, as mentioned above, the CIO of today and tomorrow will need to develop strong skills as a leader.
Among other things, the future CIO will be expected to possess:
- Strong interpersonal “soft skills”
- Leadership and managerial skills
- Negotiation and persuasion skills
- Project management skills
CIOs should be able to operate both as IT specialists and business leaders – and, as we saw above, as business strategists.
Technical expertise will undoubtedly still be essential for the future CIO. However, the more well-rounded the skill set, the more successful they will be at leading their organization.