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Vanguard CIOs get down to business

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Over the last few weeks, I have been asking CIOs in the #CIOChat about their thoughts for 2016. Their answers fit into two buckets: The need to change the perception and actions of IT, and second, their initiatives for 2016. I found their comments incredibly interesting and worthy of broader consideration—especially since they add color and insight to surveys such as the one conducted by CIO Magazine. To be clear, these CIOs are business-oriented and in many respects, in the vanguard of CIO thinking.

Changing the Role of IT

The CIO of a major educational institution kicked things off for this topic by saying CIOs “should be the change they want to see in their organizations and communities.” Thinking of CIOs as change agents and change leaders is compelling. CIOs can make this happen, said another participant, by changing the conversation with their CxO peers from a question to a statement. In particular, the conversation should change from “How can IT help you?” to “How can IT help the business?”. This also requires business enablement via technology, data partnership and collaboration.

CIOs should lead every discussion with the business’ goals and value, said another participant. This CIO stressed finding the destination first and avoiding techie speak. A second CIO added to this thought: “I would encourage CIOs to challenge themselves and teams in 2016” and “Never doubt that a small committed team of IT professionals can change any organization.” What’s essential to making this happen? “Actually walking around the organization and talking to the people in it,” something that gives CIOs an understanding of the needs of different business units. Tom Peters – prolific business management writer – has labeled this “management by walking around.” What’s more, CIOs should do the same with customers. “Bet there'll be an overlap, if it's not efficient, fix it, and solve bottlenecks for both.”

The CIOs in the chat made two final recommendations. First, find a way to change the perception of IT from Cost Center to Innovation Center. They stressed “perception is reality.” They also emphasized the importance of four things in 2016:

  • Talent acquisition and retention
  • Extreme business knowledge
  • Customer delight
  • Delivery obsessed

Business-Changing Technologies for 2016

The second set of answers in the #CIOChat revolved around the business-changing technologies they planned to evaluate in 2016. CIOs started this topic—without prompting—by discussing the growing importance of data and analytics in 2016. Tools which provide greater clarity about data are also critical this year, said one participant. “Striving to find the little data jewels in the big data lakes will provide real business value,” said one participant—to which another one replied, CIOs should invest in understanding the data flows within their organization and with their vendors/suppliers. In addition, data flow mapping will become more important with the implementation of the EU Data Protection regulations.

From here on, their answers diverged. One CIO highlighted Citizen Developments and mobile development platforms, indicating he wants to look for opportunities to leverage business unit techies and push citizen development towards more self-service.

Not unexpectedly, another CIO said enterprises need to get serious about moving their legacy applications into variations of hybrid cloud. Cloud Data Analytics are necessary to support ever-changing business capabilities and opportunities, this CIO continued. CIOs should start pivoting from "Information Technology" to "Digital Services." Participants also mentioned a few other changes: virtual reality for healthcare, world-class customer service and user experience, unified communications/team messaging, internal enterprise mobile app development, data security and digitization of processes.

Parting Remarks

These are interesting insights for everyone involved in the IT ecosystem. Getting more closely tied to the business and then solving business problems is critical. One CIO summarized things nicely by saying that “2016 is the year of data and relevance.” I couldn’t agree more.

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