Global and national markets are undergoing profound changes. Disruptive forces such as accelerating connectivity, extraordinary demographic shifts, and the speed of technological innovation are dramatically altering the global economy. According to McKinsey & Company, the pace of change in the global economy is occurring at a rate ten times faster and 300 times the scale of the Industrial Revolution.

In this time of rapid change and uncertainty, the CIO can be relied upon as a trusted advisor by the C-suite and board of directors. Unlike other corporate executives, the CIO is able to see across multiple business lines and functions in the enterprise. Because IT is pervasive, the CIO has an unobstructed view of the inner workings of the enterprise from a neutral position.

But in order to help the enterprise compete in the global economy, the CIO needs to apply a fresh mindset to achieve new levels of success. As daring business ventures around the world continue to demonstrate through their success, imaginative approaches to providing customers with new value models are generating accelerated market growth.

In light of these dynamics, CIOs need to employ inventive leadership qualities such as a willingness to take risks and apply emerging technologies and creative processes that allow them to help enable and drive innovation ahead of competitors. I’ve laid out these principles in a recent series of articles we’ve published in the HMG Strategy Resource & Research Center called The Courage to Lead.

One of the ways in which the CIO can deliver added value to the enterprise is blending their horizontal view of the business with their understanding of the factors that are reshaping the industry their organization operates in and how consumer preferences are changing.

In my recent book, The Big Shift in IT Leadership, Tim Stanley, former Senior Vice President of Enterprise Strategy + Cloud Innovation at Salesforce.com and Chief Innovation Officer, CIO/CTO and Senior Vice President of Innovation, Gaming, and Technology at Caesars/Harrah’s Entertainment, talks about the importance for CIOs to “gain some first-hand familiarity with the way that consumers see things. You need to get your hands dirty and your feet wet,” said Tim. “If you don’t, you’re either going to get run over or wind up being just a naysayer.”

I love Tim’s vision of the highly-involved, hands-on CIO. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s absolutely critical for CIOs to immerse themselves in the customer experience and develop a keen understanding about their customers’ needs, preferences, and attitudes – and make these insights available to fellow members of the C-suite. By blending their knowledge of customers and market dynamics along with their unique perspective across the enterprise, CIOs can position themselves to enable and even champion the innovations that are necessary for businesses to compete in today’s constantly-evolving business environment.

Key Takeaways

  • The exponential rate of change in global markets positions CIOs well to serve as trusted strategic advisors thanks to their unique view across multiple business lines and functions throughout the enterprise.
  • In order to support successful transformation, the CIO must draw upon bold leadership qualities that infuse risk-taking with their understanding of how people, processes, and technology can be applied to deliver innovation.
  • The CIO can deliver added value to the enterprise by blending their horizontal view of the business with their understanding of how market dynamics and consumer preferences are changing.