The race for all businesses to become 'digital' or to 'execute a digital transformation' is well underway, with some organizations demonstrating the cultural adaptability required to see the results and success. CIOs are at the center of digital transformation initiatives. However, unlike any time in the past, CIOs are faced with heightened expectations from the CEO, C-suite and the board to provide vision, leadership, manage risk appropriately, and create value to keep the company competitive, innovative and growing.  

Current themes and realities that exist for today’s digital-era CIOs include:

  • Speed wins
  • Businesses expect heightened pace and acceleration of innovation
  • Talent wins (and it is an incredibly tight market for top talent)
  • Adapt or lose control (failure to do so can lead you to lose your job)

In light of these dynamics, CIOs must apply and leverage new, evolved skills, models, mindsets and thinking in order to be successful going forward.

The good news is, demand for change is occurring at one of the most exciting times in history and presents a fantastic opportunity for CIOs to lead and serve as a strategic influencer and contributor at the senior executive level.

The evolving skills, models and go-forward behaviors required by CIOs include:

Courage and curiosity are front and center

It’s imperative for CIOs to speak up and step up to demonstrate their leadership of digital transformation initiatives within the C-suite. This includes the need to challenge and debate conventional thinking, biases and behaviors in their organizations around the definition of digital disruption in the business - not just IT. Engage, socialize and evangelize -- message with your peers and your boss and set an example as the leader of the IT organization. Keep the conversation a digital-business disruption conversation, rather than one about shiny IT granules.  

Ask for help, and engage an outside point of view

Reliance on solution partners has never been more critical, and it’s essential to truly promote and execute digital-innovation – especially at the speed expected for delivery. There is simply not enough time or resources to build the needed competencies internally.  A proven partner may bring on additional costs but integrated partnerships must be leveraged to drive and deliver “to-market” change.

If you are unsure of who to ask for help, seek out a trusted, respected contemporary – perhaps in a more innovative, dynamic industry segment than your own. Potential candidates might include traditional solution partner consultancies (Deloitte, Accenture) and non-traditional partners (digital firms like SapientRazorfish) and/or advisory firm (Gallup) POVs.

Employ new models for acquiring expertise – both the technology and the talent

What buy-build-deliver model are you employing to acquire digital capabilities to digitally enable the enterprise? Also, how are you moving on talent acquisition? Traditional models won’t cut it. Challenge the norm on both fronts, and again, check in with contemporaries at organizations that are succeeding to gain insights and lessons learned.

Create capabilities that are “self-service” and simple

We live in a world that expects “one-click” accessibility and simplicity - irrespective of the back-end complexity. Make it easy for all users – external customers, business partners, and employees – to use digital technologies. 

Hone your financial acumen to manage risk, technology investments and solution partner value delivery

Courageous leadership includes a willingness to take some calculated risks. For investments that will not yield traditional ROI modeling, be bold. But remember to still have measurement and controls in place for balance.