Are you a CIO? Now you can call it chief inclusion officer. Or chief influence officer.

Oh. Add IT evangelist. Digital and business strategist. Transformational leader. And game-changer.

As companies of every size, in every industry, strive to transform themselves for the digital age, the job description of the chief information officer is expanding to include some or all of these new roles.

Today’s successful CIOs must be socially and organizationally savvy. Company leaders are increasingly looking to CIOs and senior technology managers to deliver on the organizational imperative to “be digital”—or at least do digital work, coordinate disparate digital efforts across the enterprise, lead digital strategy, and represent a seat at the CxO table as a business leader, empowered by digital.

CIOs must perform a balancing act, helping elevate the business while continuing to deliver on the traditional goals of managing IT efficiently and containing costs. Ideally, they have experience in consulting, business operations, marketing, or finance to augment their technology expertise.

Surveying the CIO Landscape

Late in 2015, Cognizant surveyed 200 North American CIOs and IT leaders in the banking, insurance, healthcare, and life sciences industries. We asked how their responsibilities are evolving in response to their organizations’ digital mandate, how their relationships with internal stakeholders are shifting, how and where they’re succeeding, and what’s inhibiting their success.

Our research revealed barriers that blunt the CIO’s ability to deliver IT services that drive innovation.

Key finding? Many CIOs feel they are not receiving enough backing from the CEO and board to take digital initiatives from blue-sky concepts to bankable reality. This lack of C-suite support is undermining the ability of CIOs to demonstrate digital’s transformative capacity, implement such transformation, and thus enhance business performance.

And, the dynamics between the CIO and CEO must change. CEOs must elevate their CIOs to trusted advisors; at the same time, CIOs have to earn it. They’ll need to up their game as champions, innovators, and agents of change.

CIOs: How to Win in the Digital Age

Digital professionalsOur study also uncovered ways for organizations and CIOs to adapt and win in today’s digital age. Companies need a new organizational paradigm built for innovation and agility. This means shifting away from traditional ROI-based models that favor large initiatives sponsored by the CEO and approved by the board. Instead, traditional models should be replaced with one capable of supporting smaller digital initiatives that can quickly succeed or fail.

How? By nurturing the continuous pilot, development, testing, adaptation, adapting of conceptual projects – essentially creating the nebula/incubator of future growth.

Then they’re accepted or not. If not, having explored the concept at a minimal cost offers a low-impact way to encourage a culture of innovation within the technology function—which is critical to realizing the organization’s objectives. If accepted, the organization has a roadmap to adopting digital initiatives that help realize those objectives.

CIOs Are Central to Business Success

To enable this type of exploration, examination, development, and implementation, today’s CIO must play a central role. CIOs can directly influence their ability to enable IT to deliver on digital’s business potential. They must define and deploy process standards, close a widening skills-gap, and integrate shadow IT systems with the enterprise information architecture.

CIOs must also tap into their underutilized marketing savvy and communications competencies to cultivate and articulate a digital strategy that is consistent, aligned with business objectives, and clearly understood across the organization.

Next Step? Step Up.

It’s time for CIOs to take the next step—to fully commit to a new way of thinking and truly transform themselves for being digital in the new age of business.

Moreover, the dynamic between the CIO and CEO must change. CEOs must elevate their CIOs to trusted advisor, allowing them to play a major role in setting strategy and executing it, and become a business transformation catalyst and a true digital champion.

Want to know more? View our report preview, “Being Digital: How and Why CIOs Are Reinventing Themselves for a New Age.”

Adithya Sastry

Adithya Sastry

Adithya Sastry is an Associate Vice-President within Cognizant’s Emerging Business Accelerator Unit, and is General Manager for the Internet of Things business,... Read more

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