6 CIO duties that make it one of the hardest jobs in the C-suite

By Rado Nikolov

Every member of the C-suite has a demanding job. From the CEO, who establishes the company’s vision, to the CMO, who understands the customers, C-suite executives are leading the way in transforming their companies. And, with 72 percent of data professionals seeing digital disruption as a threat in the next three years, staying digitally revolutionary has never been more essential. One leadership position takes this challenge head on: the CIO.

Though CIO duties used to revolve around enabling the organization, CIOs now focus on innovating and leading the way in the digital reinvention of the entire business, from strategy to execution. CIOs are responsible for creating business value through implementing technology, developing customer experience platforms, managing risk and security and strategically planning growth opportunities, among a long list of other management duties — all while driving the company to become a digital business.

Specifically, CIOs now do the following:

1. Innovate and operate

Common CIO duties require them to put out operational fires, such as down networks, inaccessible business applications and IT security risks, all while continuously improving the technology infrastructure of the entire business. Ranking the importance of these tasks is nearly impossible, with 76 percent of CIOs saying their biggest risk is IT security. However, as industries converge, competition is coming from outside traditional business classifications, making the need to be a digital innovator as crucial as ever. Every CIO is constantly balancing the act of maintaining current processes, securing data and driving digital transformation.

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2. Work with the CMO to serve the customer

The increasing importance of customer experience is encouraging these two executives to work together. Only 36 percent of CIOs take customer feedback into account when identifying and exploring new trends, compared to 61 percent of CMOs. As customer experience focuses on both technology and growth, both the CMO and CIO need to look at their customers as the driving factors for all decisions. The CIO also needs to ensure the value of innovative technologies, such as advertising technology and marketing technology, is being properly communicated to the CMO. Both leaders are responsible for keeping technology and marketing projects in line with company goals and creating engaging customer experiences that stay within the IT budget.

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3. Maintain alignment with the rest of the organization

CIOs must also support the entire business strategy as a whole. Specifically, they must stay on top of what new technologies the enterprise needs for its customer service agents, external data sources, engineers and salespeople. Those leaders who are continuously innovating are nearly three times as likely to say they can detect and quickly respond to changing conditions in their organizations.

4. Revamp and improve IT infrastructure

They also need to ensure these systems are scalable, dependable and secure as the business continues to evolve. CIOs can no longer think of their IT infrastructure bounded by the walls of their data centers. Services will be delivered with data, systems and applications composed on-premises and in the cloud. This means they will need infrastructure built on open systems with security built from the ground up and with the capability to rapidly extract insights from data, no matter where it resides.

5. Retain in-demand technology skills

Eighty percent of CIOs consider skills development a top priority. As technologies such as blockchain, Swift and artificial intelligence gain traction, the development of new digital skills is exponentially increasing among CIO duties. Unfortunately, the supply of individuals with these new digital skills is not growing. CIOs from companies with reputations as leading innovators and impressive financial records are 18 percent more likely to invest in developing employee IT skills, further cementing skills as an essential area to prioritize.

6. Anticipate that expectations will continue to grow

A 2015 Forrester report declared, “All companies are data businesses now.” The amount of data companies are able to collect is only going to grow with the help of these digital innovations. CIOs need to be able to access and make sense of vast, growing amounts of structured and unstructured data. By 2020, IDC predicts organizations that can analyze relevant data and extract useful insight will see $430 billion in productivity benefits. As the position of CIO expands to touch every single part of the organization, more responsibility will be given to those who hold the position and, ultimately, more successes and failures will be attributed to them and their teams.

The need to digitally reinvent has become a survival skill for CIOs. It’s challenging to drive toward the future while continuing to deliver technology and business results on a daily basis. Top CIOs can shape the future for their enterprises, enabling data-driven insight, accelerating innovation and creating exceptional experiences for clients and employees alike. The trick may be avoiding limited approaches and focusing on skills and ecosystems that drive sustained advantage.

CIOs, you don’t have to go at it alone. Ecosystems and partnerships can spur innovation and faster progression.

Written By

Rado Nikolov

Director of Marketing Transformation and CIO Marketing, IBM

Twenty years of success in marketing, selling and developing enterprise software and IT solutions. Results oriented executive with strong client focus, demonstrated leadership, and turnaround track record. Professional experience in North America, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and…