Transform your business or pay the price

Transform your business or pay the price

The job descriptions of some CIOs need to be changed, argues Richard Earl

There is more pressure than ever on CIOs to capitalise on digital opportunities. Traditional, well-established business models are being swept aside by more nimble and agile businesses created through digital innovations.

CIOs can either step up and take on the challenge of transforming their businesses or potentially pay the heavy price of losing their customers and market position.

Demand for adaptive and visionary leadership skills has never been greater, as IT is becoming critical not just to growth, but survival. Consequently, a new breed of CIO or CTO is now required – a true digital leader who is in control of ordinary business but can maximise the potential offered by new technologies.

Enter the disruptive CIO – a leader who must master and deliver the following key elements.

1. Building agility into applications

Systems must be built that have both scalability and flexibility to take advantage of market opportunities and sudden shifts in technological capability. Clearly the move to mobile will continue at a rapid rate so be mindful of this and the developments occurring across various mobile platforms.

In other words, build for any eventuality. A great example would be online job classifieds business, Seek, which is taking advantage of the power of big data to deliver targeted advertising. Amazon is also rapidly diversifying into toys, tools, electronics and kitchenware as it looks to become a ‘one stop shop’.

2. Establishing a proactive approach to the market and competitors

It is essential to be continually reviewing developments and trends amongst consumers to pre-empt what they might want next. However, be sure to run your ideas past focus groups.

Likewise, invest a good deal of your time in current research either online or through industry forums. Be well networked. Importantly, watch your competitors closely but don’t compete where you can’t. Youi and Allianz are probably good examples of this in the highly competitive online insurance sector.

3. Driving customer obsession

Customer acquisition is becoming more challenging and all businesses have to lift their efforts. The customer is becoming increasingly more web-savvy so data analytics have to be more precise than ever to target specific demographics.

Those enticing eDMs have to be intelligently tailored or they will go unopened. In addition, there is less tolerance these days for data error, and security breaches are rarely forgiven.

Organisations such as CBA, Microsoft and Zuji have worked hard in the area of customer acquisition and retention and have reaped the rewards.

To attract and retain customers, CIOs – with the support of the CEO and the board – need to build a culture of innovation. This takes courage, as shareholder demands, budgetary restrictions and the overhead of maintaining daily business operations can be challenging.

The structure of the average IT department hasn’t changed in quite some time but for corporates to continue to prosper, the IT department has to reinvent itself.

Gartner refers to this as the “bimodal” or two speed approach – combining ‘business as usual’ activities with disruption and change – the co-existence of two very different skill sets.

Read more: Youi maps project management

We are getting to the end of the first internet age which was all about users interacting directly with devices. But we are starting to see the emergence of a digital environment where the next wave of innovation involves services and devices connecting and exchanging data without our knowledge or intervention – the Internet of Things.

This requires close collaboration with the providers of infrastructure, and will only be possible if CIOs are open to co-creation. Security will be paramount and will account for a massive proportion of IT spend in the coming years – as high as 30 per cent by some estimates.

Only the truly inspiring and impactful CIOs who identify and harness new technologies that drive tangible growth will succeed in the future.

Perhaps it’s time for some employers to alter the job descriptions of their CIOs.

Richard Earl is managing director at recruitment firm, Talent International.

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