I’ve previously written about the growing role of the CIO within the C-suite—and that I believe CIOs are taking center stage in orchestrating change in their companies.

And with organizations continuing to aggressively push leveraging technology, fueling innovation, and transforming business operations, I don’t see that changing in 2022. CIOs hold the key to helping plan the future success of their companies regarding growth, innovation, and differentiation. They can be advocates for change and help advance corporate transformation, using cloud as the primary driver for innovation inside their companies.

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The five R’s that will accelerate business transformation

While the role of today’s CIO is multifaceted, their most important responsibilities relate to changes needed to position the company for success not just today, but in the future as well. I call these the five R’s:

01. Resilience

Using cloud as a catalyst, the best CIOs will build resilience in their companies by rethinking their processes and operating models.

02. Restructuring

CIOs will need to change the way their companies operate by adopting more-agile work environments that enable better collaboration between IT and the business overall.

03. Reinvention

CIOs must drive their companies’ use of technology to reinvent their business processes, products and services.

04. Reskilling

As people are at the core of any transformation, CIOs will have to re-skill their teams, with a focus on enabling them to develop new skills that foster innovation.

05. Reduction

CIOs need to reduce costs and spend more efficiently while simultaneously driving innovation and business transformation.

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61% of CIOs expect to grow the percentage of their IT workforce dedicated to innovation, especially in the context of rebounding successfully from the toll of the pandemic. 

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Source: Accenture research; CXO Pulse Survey Wave 2; July 2020

CIO initiatives to address the five R’s

A major challenge for organizations is harnessing technology to fuel innovation. Everyone is going digital, but they’re not always achieving the expected or intended benefits. In fact, while the CXO Pulse survey Accenture conducted last year found that 95% of CXOs believe their organizations are undergoing an accelerated digital transformation, and other Accenture research found that only 37% of companies fully achieved their expected outcomes from cloud investments.

So, it’s clear that companies need a fundamentally different approach to building and managing technology—one better suited to the ever-changing reality of today’s business landscape that reflects the five R’s above. To lead the way, CIOs should start by helping promote five mindset shifts in the C-suite:

01. Live in the cloud

The common ground that will help CIOs address the five R’s is cloud. Most companies are moving from migrating to the cloud, which was about standardization—i.e., digitizing business and adopting software-as-a-service—to what we call living in the cloud, which is all about differentiation and operating unconstrained from the old way of doing things. Enabled by a new technology foundation, they are now able to think, act and operate in previously unimaginable ways to reap the full benefits and value of their cloud investment.

02. Transform your operating model

CIOs must help transform the way their companies work—not only with technology, but with each other, by helping the entire workforce become more technology-literate. As a result, the role of the IT department will shift drastically, from one of providing technology support and maintenance to one of innovation.  

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03. Modernize the IT architecture

Even though most companies are already migrating to the cloud, many still have some antiquated applications and data architecture. Updating legacy systems will take time and effort, but it needs to be a sustained effort for CIOs to put the past of their IT departments behind them and lead toward innovation and differentiation. 

04. Maximize IT value

CIOs need to become savvy at what we call “mastering cloud economics," because as IT costs continue to rise, CFOs are challenging that increased spend. They're pushing CIOs to get more efficiency out of their IT budgets and make sure that they're achieving greater value. Should the company be spending more? Should they be spending less? The CIO needs to be able to speak to these issues and provide solutions that maximize the value the company gets from their IT spend.

05. Become data-driven

The C-suite and other business runners want more and better information, and data/analytics is key to enabling data-driven decision-making. CIOs must therefore be the catalyst for becoming data-driven. By combining cloud and applied intelligence initiatives and scaling advanced analytics and artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, they can help derive greater value from data—enabling the company to provide differentiated experiences and solutions.

Technology is no longer just a support function; it has become critical to—and even responsible for—driving corporate strategy and protecting its success. That’s why it’s time for the CIO to take their place in the spotlight, as the champion of technology transformation and business change. Rock on!

See more IT Strategy insights

Greg Douglass​

Senior Managing Director – Technology Strategy & Advisory​

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