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How CIOs bring the greatest value to transformation 

3-minute read

June 29, 2022

A new global dynamic in the business world has given way for a rising rock star in the C-suite: the Chief Information Officer (CIO). I recently had an illuminating discussion with Phil Armstrong, former Global CIO of Great-West Lifeco (now retired) and Chairman of the Technology Business Management (TBM) Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the discipline of TBM through education, standards, and collaboration engagements.

On a recent TBM Tuesday webinar, Phil and I discussed how the CIO role has changed, and also how this leadership role is still evolving. Including how TBM standards, principles and practices are helping to equip CIOs with the tools they need to consistently connect business value to technology investments in real-time.

Below is an excerpt from our conversation where we dive into the hottest topics and TBM trends. You can listen to our full conversation.

Two greatest challenges facing CIOs today

Phil: There has been a recent acceleration of digital transformation due to COVID. The need to adapt to a new global dynamic has led to shifting business models that require a radical shift in strategy. How do you make the shift successful? How are organizations adapting and transforming to derive real business value from this shift?

Greg: In navigating digital transformation, you’d expect most of the challenges to relate to technology. But the two most common challenges I hear from clients relate to talent and operating models.

In terms of talent, there is a need to increase the technology quotient (TQ) of your staff. With so much new technology coming in at once, it can be difficult for employees to find the time and space to learn how to use and wield these new tools for their role.

To address this challenge, we’ve been focusing on reskilling, which happens to be one of the five Rs I’ve shared about before. We help clients upskill their employee base in a time-efficient way by delivering training in snackable bite-sized pieces, or right at the moment when they need it.

When it comes to operating models, if you're going to transform digitally, everybody has to be operating in a new way. This is where the TBM concept of shifting from a project to a product mindset has been helpful. We’ve also seen a huge trend in focusing on operations these days—it seems like every new role these days is an operations role.

I can give you two stats for why that trend is emerging. First of all, IDC reports that 80% of companies have a significant technology budget somewhere else in the organization. A decentralized budget for technology makes it even more important to track where things are happening, and to improve what is being spent and consumed. TBM helps integrate all of these operating models and processes.

One model I find useful for clients facing this challenge is the "Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat" model. It’s inspired by agile software development practices that, when applied to digital transformation management, help CIOs track value and uncover hidden pools of value. Clients especially like this model for how the iterative approach delivers value early on, so that CIOs can already report on some of that value to the CFO and the Board instead of waiting 12 to 18 months for the digital transformation to be complete.

To that point, we have found that a growing majority of employees view the CIO of their company as a strategic advisor: CIOs are clearly driving the transformation across the organization, which raises the need for them to demonstrate how those expenditures deliver value.

We have found that a growing majority of employees view the CIO of their company as a strategic advisor. CIOs are clearly driving transformation across the organization.

Digital transformation is changing the role of CIO today

Phil: This brings me to the evolving role of the CIO. I’ve been a global CIO for over 20 years. Over the years, with digital transformation and different changes in the business world, I’ve seen this role become diluted with the emergence of the chief digital officer or chief technology officer. In this new world that we’re living in, the CIO has been cast in a different leadership role. Why is the CIO now getting recast, and how important is the CIO in leading digital transformations globally?

Greg: We’re now saying the CIO is the new corporate rock star. Our work with clients shows that CIOs are spending much more time with CEOs than they did 18 months ago. CIOs are stepping up and becoming business advisors. This leads to new requirements in the role, of course. CIOs today need to be adept at speaking not just about technology, but the business value it delivers. They need a new language to talk to the C suite and the board and that is what the TBM discipline enables.

It's all about adding value

My conversation with Phil reinforced the idea that CIOs need to be increasingly focused on the value they help generate for their business. When I say value, I don’t just mean financial value. Just as important is the value represented in operational efficiency, sustainability and impact on people. The more that CIOs can speak convincingly to these value pools, the easier they can claim their role as the new rock stars of the boardroom. TBM is therefore a crucial tool for CIOs as they prepare for this new future, where they need to have one foot in the technology world, and the other firmly rooted in the business world.

Thank you to the TBM Council and Phil Armstrong for inviting me to be a guest on TBM Tuesday. To view our full conversation, please visit Restructuring & Realigning: Putting Tech at the Heart of Business Transformation.


Greg Douglass

Senior Managing Director – Technology Strategy & Advisory (RETIRED)