Today's CIO - With Greater Position Comes Even Greater Responsibility

Arya Choudhury, CIO, SG Fertility
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Arya Choudhury, CIO, SG Fertility

“With greater position comes even greater responsibility”. That’s my CIO take on what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker (Spiderman).

Historically, the CIO position reported into the CFO or the COO or in some rare cases, other C-Suite executives. Today, we are increasingly seeing companies provide CIOs with more visibility and voice, with reporting into the CEO and an advisory seat at the Board. A recent survey by Harvey Nash/KPMG found over one-third of the CIOs reporting directly to the CEO and over half having a seat at board or senior executive committees. The numbers have risen significantly over the past few years.

Let’s first understand why that may be the case. Digital strategies and transformations are making up the core of enterprise growth and consolidation initiatives for the CEO, to deliver better business value. This creates a strong need for IT to play the role of a proactive business partner, orchestrating the processes, methods and tools for success.

With access to systems and technology spanning the entire organization, CIOs are uniquely positioned to play the role. It is then their obligation and responsibility to play that role efficiently, being an effective advisor to the board and a true business partner, with skin-in-the-game, to the CEO.

 CIOs are in a great position to positively impact the business through technology 

What’s the secret recipe to being successful in that responsibility? While there is no single formula, here are some key points, based on life experiences and recent research findings:-

1. Recognize that this is a strategic leadership role – The CEO and the Board depends on the CIO’s ability to understand current and emerging trends in technology and to articulate a strategic vision to help address business strategy. Leading by example and indirectly influencing stakeholders (including peer executives) are key skills for success.

2. Be maniacal about customer needs and experience – Digital disruptors like Amazon, Uber and AirBnB have thrived by improving the customer experience. User experience in industries like retail and banking has fundamentally changed their expectations of other industries. While each industry has its own challenges, CIOs need to partner with other leaders to understand the stated and unstated needs of customers and recommend technology solutions to provide a better experience and to address those needs.

3. Ensure technology is addressing business needs – Just because a new technology appears “cool” doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for the business. As business leaders, CIOs need to evaluate business needs and communicate recommendations that are appropriate. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are buzzwords that have little meaning for the healthcare CEO, until put into context that a virtual nurse, built with AI and progressive learning capabilities, could help address issues related to shortage of skilled nursing staff.

4. Be prepared to say “No” – Resources are limited and saying “Yes” to everything is not realistic. In order to achieve great results, resources need to be assigned appropriately and expectations need to be set. This requires careful vetting of ideas and saying no, with explanation, to those that are not fully aligned with the enterprise strategies and goals.

5. Don’t forget operations – While the CIO role is more strategic than ever before, meeting and exceeding operational business needs remain a critical success factor. As Jim Collins mentioned in his book, while you focus on stimulating progress, you also have to “preserver the core”.

CIOs are in a great position to positively impact the business through technology and it remains to be seen whether the execution of the responsibilities dovetail the power and opportunity.

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