future-technology-updatedCEOs fully expect CIOs and technology executives to help them to identify and execute on new business opportunities. This includes the ability to leverage organizational data for competitive advantage along with the ability to enable innovation on a consistent basis

But the CIO's role doesn't stop there. CIOs also must help the CEO, CMO and line-of-business leaders to cater to changing customer preferences and needs. 

"The distinction between IT and the business has disappeared - IT is the business," said Vish Narendra, VP & CIO, Graphic Packaging Corporation International. "The tech leader for an organization should be well-versed in all parts of the company and be able to work with the functional and P&L leaders to identify their needs."

Narendra is an advisory board member for HMG Strategy's upcoming 2018 Atlanta CIO Executive Leadership Summit taking place on August 16 at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta. He and other advisory board members and speakers for the event recently shared their insights on the role that the CIO can and should play in helping fellow business leaders to identify and execute on new business opportunities and in helping to cultivate a culture of customer centricity.

"Most of the CIO searches we've been conducting over the past few years have been focused on finding executives who can deliver on heightened leadership expectations for the organization," said Steve Kendrick, President of KER Partners. "Part of this has been driven by the prior CIO in place not delivering that level of leadership, including clearly defining what digital is and what it represents for the organization."

These leadership capabilities include the ability to understand rising customer expectations from the customer's perspective. "It is absolutely imperative that the next-generation CIO is looking at it from the lens of the end customer," said Eric Anderson, Partner and Global Head of the FinTech Practice at Egon Zehnder. "CEOs are much more vocal about what they want from CIOs. If a person today is just keeping the lights on and can only incrementally participate in strategic discussions, then they're not the right fit. They're not positioned organizationally to be effective."

"Within our business, the market is undergoing a seismic shift and technology is a key catalyst for us in that journey," added Gautam Vyas, SVP & Chief Growth Officer, Payments at FIS Global, a global provider of technology to the financial services industry. "The CIO needs to act as a partner and an enabler. If the business needs to launch a new service, you need to have the right capabilities in place to respond to an opportunity that's imminent or on the horizon. And the technology selected must be scalable."

In addition to evaluating and then communicating to the C-suite how technology can be used to disrupt the business, CIOs also must push fellow members of the C-suite out of their comfort zones and away from traditional P&L thinking, said Jikin Shah, SVP - Head of Business Accelerator, Head of OMNI Channels Sales and Services at SunTrust Bank. 

"To do that, CIOs not only need a seat at the table but also the ability to effectively communicate the company's five-year business/technology strategy to the board of directors," Shah added.

"What's really been top of mind for next-gen CIOs is that they're always listening and always learning," said Dr. Kenneth Russell, Vice President, Digital Transformation and CIO at Pfeiffer University. "It's about being a valued voice in the C-suite. I've been in the CIO seat several times in my career and what's different this time is that I'm able to have meaningful conversations with the other CXOs - I'm not just the IT guy."

Too often, companies can get bogged down by core systems that take an inward-looking view. As a result, this positions the company to operate as to how it wants the customer to behave, said Narendra. Ultimately, this results in customer frustration. 

"In these instances, what the IT team can do is to help sales, marketing, and customer service provide a 360-degree view of the customer that expands all boundaries," said Narendra. "This can help improve customer satisfaction, and customer retention while mutually benefiting both the customer and the company in terms of its profit margins."

In addition, the CIO can work with the company's Chief Customer Officer or the Chief Revenue Officer and other customer-facing leaders to better understand how the customer experience is being captured and measured across each channel, said Kendrick.  

"Does that mean the company should strive to become an Amazon or another category leader? Not necessarily. But there are likely best practices that can be gleaned and applied," added Kendrick.

To learn more about the upcoming Atlanta CIO Summit and to register for the event, click here.