July 1, 2021

How CIOs can help lead technology transformations

CIOs in the past were specifically responsible for a company’s IT infrastructure. However, now the organizations are fundamentally evolving in terms of how they operate and deliver value. Today’s CIOs do that and much more like collaborating on digital strategies, lead organizational change and drive agile practices. CIOs can be a real asset for a company if they realize the importance of how technology trends have modified their role and responsibilities in taking the company ahead with the evolving trends to stay competitive. Moreover, the responsibilities of CIOs may differ concerning the size of an organization. The role of a CIO of a startup can be very different from the role of a CIO of a big enterprise.

Let’s unpack the technology transformation trends and how CIOs’ roles have evolved in leading these transformation trends.

CIO/CTO dual role

The CIO for a startup has to deal with more day-to-day operations, a clear understanding of command and control of teams, more backend facilitations, and maintaining a smooth working environment. Performing a dual responsibility of CIO and CTO. As a startup may not be fully established in terms of technology stacks. So a CIO/CTO’s role is to have a clear picture of technology, programming a tech geek, and then presenting the technical information in front of the board in a non-tech language that is easy for them to understand. Driving technology perspective from their tech teams and converting them into understandable information for the board members so they can make strategic growth plans. CIOs are expected to be more involved in the backend side of the company that includes IT services and infrastructure. While CTO has more front-facing and user interfacing roles. Many startups have merged all these roles for a CTO.

Most medium-sized companies like fortune 10 have multiple layers to report up to the CIOs. These companies have divisional or regional CIOs who report to the Global CIO. However, every organization is different in terms of the structure and aptitude for technology.

Today, depending on every organization’s technological savviness the CIOs play a dual role. Previously they were the ones who were handling the IT infrastructure and server sides for the company. But now they are responsible for technology transformations, managing customer relationships, creating opportunities for the enterprise, and leveraging technology to create better user experience and partnerships with the customers. Technology transformation is the sole reason behind this prominent addition to a CIO’s role. Since innovation is at the heart of every organization these days. In these digitally disruptive times, every organization is using some type of technology or innovation tool that can help them smoothly embark on the digital transformation journey to stay competitive.

You need to realize that we are living in the era of technology where you as a CIO should proactively form strategies to meet customer needs.

Managing teams globally

The technology part can be considered slightly easier for delivering services globally. However, leading teams internationally can be a challenging part for a CIO since every country has its regulations, compliances, and culture to follow. You can not apply the same strategy for every nation while scaling your business operations. There is a need to develop fundamentals upfront, specific for every country you plan to scale your team and business. Hence, it can save you from a lot of re-working and re-strategizing if you did scale operations adhering to the “business-culture” fundamentals of individual countries. CIOs need to build a comprehensive roadmap in advance for their organization working in different parts of the world that are based on each country’s social, cultural, and governmental values. Therefore, you know where your company is going and it’s a little easier for you to articulate your team. The biggest advantage of developing a strong culture in your organization is that it helps you communicate with your team in advance where your organization is headed.

Building the right culture

To be able to have a sustainable organization, as a CIO/CTO you need to develop a clear understanding of what your team is passionate about and make regulations accordingly. As a leader, a lot needs to be done to make your team aware of how their work is affecting the world. No matter what type of organization you are in at the service level or product level, the input is what matters. Setting up the right culture and instilling trust in the team can help an organization achieve sustainable competitive advantages in all the business cultures.
Hence, it can be said that the right organizational culture sets a company apart and accelerates business growth. The inculcation of trust in your organizational culture can provide a platform for people to work on challenging projects where they don’t have fear of failure. Therefore, they are motivated and inspired to take on hard projects. So, the higher the trust level in an organization, the better will be the culture.

Here comes the role of CIOs/CTOs to build their teams based on people’s emotional intelligence (EQ) level rather than the IQ level. When you interview a resource for a technical role from external sources, they will come well prepared and well researched. However, when you interview someone from internal references they come well prepared too but will bring a passion and excitement about the role. That’s how culture impacts teams. So, employees tend to transfer that passion to the people they refer to their company. As a leader, you should always look for people whose EQ resonates with your organization.

Outsourcing the right tech partners

Technology is only going to evolve in the future. However, companies need to get a clear picture of their technology needs and to identify which technology fits with their business. Once you identify which technology can be leveraged for your business, the next step is to identify the right match for technology partners. As a CIO/CTO, you have to ensure that your technology partners have the same set of values and work ethics as you do. Because if they cannot execute digital transformation services then your business scalability can also suffer. Therefore, if your technology partner does not function the way you do it is only going to slump your growth and productivity. The most essential thing in a vendor-partner relationship is the value chain rather than the size of the technology partners. You have to build a platform for your partners so that they can build for you.

The Takeaway

The ongoing pandemic has made CIOs embrace technology innovations open-heartedly, build/lead teams, and come up with virtual solutions to drive business. If it was not for the situation, many industries would have resisted the digital workplace concept and would have been the late adopters of digital transformation. However, today the role of a CIO for any organization small, medium, or large is more towards driving technology growth in the company. Building a culture where people are motivated to take challenging roles to lead the company in the right direction and don’t hesitate to innovate.

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