Honestly, I don’t need to tell you how much technology impacts our lives. Just pick a direction and stare at it.  

Whether you chose to look down at your phone, which hosts nearly all our collective knowledge or up at the satellites that map our little blue marble, it’s easy to see our lives are constantly being shaped by innovations. No wonder so many of today’s business leaders are looking for the latest, shiniest piece of technology that will help them transform their business.  

And yet, in my experience, I’ve learned that technology cannot simply be applied for the sake of technology. There must be a business purpose behind these innovations. In other words, companies need to have a sense of technology purpose.   

The deeper meaning of tech 

What does that mean? Put simply, technology purpose is when a company has aligned its business and technology objectives so that they’re using the right innovations, at the right time, to achieve their business results. Having a sense of technology purpose is asking yourself, “What are the challenges we’re facing today, what are the opportunities that exist tomorrow and how can technology solve for all that?”  

What I like about this concept is that it’s nothing new. People naturally gravitate towards the question of purpose—why shouldn’t businesses? Creating a culture of technology purpose not only encourages business leaders to be more introspective when it comes to their organization, but also rewards them with all the benefits these technologies can offer. That means less risk, greater flexibility and agility, and more time and cost efficiencies.  

On top of that, operating with technology purpose encourages the democratization of technologies and skills. When every member of the organization has the tools to evolve their role, innovation starts to sprout up from every corner of the business. In fact, 88% of executives believe technology democratization is becoming critical to their ability to reignite innovation across their organization.  

Granted, all this is easier said than done. Understanding how and when to leverage the latest innovation requires a certain skillset—a specialized prowess forged at the intersection of technology and business.  

 In my experience, this is where the chief information officer (CIO) comes in.  

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An open letter to CIOs 

Dear CIOs, if no one has told you this yet, let me be the first: You are in a unique position to help your businesses master new technologies, skills, and ways of working. As more and more businesses become innovation-driven, the C-suite is going to continually look to you for guidance.  

And while I say this, I also recognize that CIOs have important obstacles they need to hurdle.   

Traditionally, the C-suite has only looked at CIOs as the problem-solvers of the back-office. Fortunately, things are changing. Today, the CIO is not seen as someone in a mere transactional role but instead as a key partner and trusted ally to the board of directors, according to Gartner’s 2021 CIO Agenda 

As the CIO, you are the closest to the tech stack. You know the company’s technology infrastructure better than anyone else, and therefore know where the challenges and opportunities are for the business. But sometimes, it can be difficult to translate why implementing a new microservices-based architecture is the right call when you’re deep in the weeds—or wires (or WIFI?), in this case. 

Either way, let’s look at blockchain as an example. Some of your peers may see this technology as a silver bullet that will magically create greater visibility and transparency across their supply chain. However, as the CIO, you probably recognize that the cost of adopting this innovation and integrating it within your organization’s existing systems may not be worth the investment.  

Not only do you have to shut the idea down, but you must also provide your reasoning in laymen’s terms. In my experience, therefore it’s so important that the CIO develop strong relationships with people like the chief executive officer, chief finance officer and chief marketing officer—partners that can help build a case for the rest of the stakeholders.  

If I can leave you with a final thought, it’s that you have a unique opportunity here. You can change the mindset of the company so that every member, from the top on down, is equipped to operate with a sense of technology purpose. 

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Creating a culture of technology purpose not only encourages business leaders to be more introspective when it comes to their organization, but also rewards them with all the benefits these technologies can offer. 

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Steps to achieving technology purpose 

The promise of technology purpose is clear: cost savings, time efficiencies, better collaborations, more flexibility…the list goes on and on. But what steps can organizations take today to foster a culture of technology purpose?  

  1. Educate your peers: One of the best ways to be a proactive business partner is by articulating the value of IT. Consider partnering with other C-suite members to help build the value case of new tech.  
  2. Put resilience at the core: Not only does tech needs be purposeful, but it also needs to deliver on its promise. Be clear when articulating with the business how Cloud, AI Ops, Cyber and Enterprise Architecture can play a vital role in increasing IT resiliency.
  3. Pivot rapidly: The COVID-19 lockdown provided an opportunity for CIOs to show how IT can pivot to rapidly accommodate market changes. Now, CIOs should be demonstrating how greater flexibility and agility can help speed up digital services.
  4. Reskill and Upskill: The best thing CIOs can do is innovate alongside their IT teams. Now is the time to embrace new skills, especially as IT moves into more business-oriented roles.  
  5. Cultivate relationships and collaboration: Working from home will continue to be the norm. Therefore, the IT function will play a key role in promoting a collaborative culture and establishing new work designs and mindsets.

When I started this article, I asked you to look around. Now, I’m asking you to look ahead. I believe CIOs will continue to play a pivotal role in guiding their organization’s technology and business strategy, and I think they’ll do this by fostering a sense of technology purpose. So, whether you chose to look up at the satellites that stitch our sky or down at the expanding universe of knowledge in our pockets, I’ll ask one more thing—look inwards and find that sense of purpose. 

See more IT Strategy insights

Ricardo Polisel Alves

Managing Director – Technology Strategy & Advisory, Growth Market

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