The role of IT departments and CIOs is evolving as rapidly as technology itself, from its traditional function as operators to a new role as stewards of core business strategy.
“The majority of CIOs have historically been measured around the operations part of their job — how do we manage costs, drive efficiency, maximize efficacy with all our IT infrastructure and the full solutions set — that’s just not enough anymore,” said Bill Briggs, the CTO of Deloitte Consulting. “That doesn’t mean that’s not important, it has to still happen.”
According to Briggs, CTOs of the Fortune 500 companies whom he consults with are still expected to maintain IT operations, but as technology becomes integrated into every other facet of business operations, there are new expectations for CTOs to be multi-disciplinary in their contributions.
“Having a presence with key business partners, with key customers potentially, it’s becoming a more outward-facing role beyond how to run the business of IT,” he said. “Those things come together to be a bit of an advocate, a bit of an evangelist, a bit of a strategist, and you have to do that across a lot of areas, which is a much different job description than what we’ve seen.”
This new job description, according to Briggs, is a result of technology seeping into every core business function. He explains that IT is no longer a yearly budget item, but a standing agenda topic, and CTOs are increasingly receiving questions they may have never been asked before.
“How do we understand forces coming in the next 18 to 24 months?’ ‘How do we look at exponential technologies that are advancing faster than Moore’s law with profound impact, that it might not be commercialized yet but it’s coming and what does it mean and what do we have to prepare?” he said. “This is the hero’s journey, between the unprecedented opportunity for innovation and growth on one side and then this sort of existential threat of disruption on the other.”
In Deloitte’s forthcoming CIO Survey, which gathered responses from 1200 CIOs on how they spend their time, Briggs advises IT staff to be aware of these new expectations, and pursue opportunities before they’re inevitably called upon to do so.
“Get a sense of where you are, how you’re spending time, and then flip it and say how would your CEO want you to spend your time? That’s a good way to take stock of whether you’re taking the needs of your organization within your industry, and whether you’re a CIO of your time,” he said. “If a CIO today doesn’t have an opinion on cloud, or digital, or analytics or their core, they’re probably going to be looking for a job. They should be in front of that, they shouldn’t be waiting for the CEO to ask the board.”