The Modern Chief Information Officer

The Modern Chief Information Officer

Technology has come a long way.  Gone are the days when computers were considered luxury items perched in the data centers of government agencies and Fortune 500 companies.  Today, computers are an integral part of the fabric of everyday life.  Counting mobile devices, set-top boxes, and personal computers, many have access to three or four computing systems at their fingertips.  Indeed, technology has become like plumbing, in that it is a vital consideration for every new construction and renovation project.  The sharing of, and access to information is no longer reserved for an elite few; it is now a critical necessity for the masses.

As the role and pervasiveness of technology have evolved, so have the responsibilities of the Chief Information Officer (CIO).  The CIO is the most senior-level technology executive in an organization.  Among other things, they are responsible for setting the strategic direction of technology for an institution.  However, the functional focus of the modern CIO has been forced to shift in the face of new-age challenges.  

Before technology became commoditized, the emphasis was placed on providing adequate access.  This included access to computers, networks, software, and information.  Users of technology needed to be operationally effective and efficient.  To do this, they had to have sufficient technological capability to be productive, communicate, collaborate and share information.  Running in parallel to the functional areas of a business, your typical Information Technology (IT) Department spent most of their workday ensuring that systems were functioning within normal thresholds, while also being responsive to requests for technical assistance.

In the apex of the Information Age, providing access to and supporting technology is no longer enough.  The needle of expectation has moved significantly, whereby IT has been catapulted into the spotlight and has become a featured underpinning of every organization's strategic plan.  The contemporary CIO must now focus on three emerging areas in order to provide a competitive edge:  Data Analytics, CoInnovation, and Process Automation.

Empowering organizational leaders to make data-driven decisions is of tremendous value.  This can be accomplished through the thoughtful and deliberate collection, storage and analysis of data.  Companies such as Google and Facebook have invested heavily in Big Data Analytics by providing ‘free' services that allow them to harvest massive amounts of data points about billions of individuals.  This information can be used for everything from targeted marketing to predictive analysis.  Leveraging data to improve a business is an essential strategy.

The modern CIO must also emphasize innovation by partnering with functional areas to materially improve products and services.  The technology was always intended to be a supplementary and complementary tool to facilitate the accomplishment of a task.  Therefore, having the ability to wield technology to take something from good to great is a welcome trait.

Finally, one of the largest value-adds an IT division can provide is by utilizing process analysis techniques and strategically applying technology to make routine procedures more efficient.  This may also have some positive side-effects by reducing costs and freeing up key resources that may be re-assigned to higher value objectives.