The Evolution of the CIO

As companies digitalize, they expect more than ever from their chief information officers.

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

May 17, 2022

5 Min Read
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yanlev via Adobe Stock

The movement of companies into a digital economy has redefined the role of the CIO.

“The CIO’s role has always had multiple components, but in forward-thinking firms, it’s increasingly oriented toward leading business transformation through technology,” according to March, 2021 research conducted by Genpact, the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, and Wakefield Research.

Key areas where companies expect CIOs and IT to step up so IT can be transformed into a revenue-generating function are the following:

1. Collaboration with sales and line-of-business units

To expedite time to market and sales, companies are now forming revenue operations teams (RevOps). 

“Investing in RevOps is an investment in transparency and accountability. It offers the ability to operationalize growth at scale, with rigor that offers repeatable processes replicated throughout the organization to drive predictable revenue and growth,” said Rosalyn Santa Elena, Head of Revenue Operations at Clari, in a recent blog. The standard RevOps team includes sales and sales enablement -- but also data analytics, insights, systems, and technology operations.

In other words, it might be corporate sales that is driving the RevOps team, but

IT with its analytics, systems, and technology is also a critical cog in the machine, and CIOs who are being asked to focus on revenue need to be integrally involved in RevOps.

2. E-commerce and the customer experience

The customer experience, and an increasing number of digital customer touch points within companies, is what's driving the IT engagement in RevOps.

Companies need to maintain a healthy presence in social media while they also use analytics to understand the trends that are ongoing in social media and how these trends and company feedback reflect on their organizations. Websites must perform without interruption or errors and be easy to navigate. Online processes must be streamlined and easy to execute -- from initial product search and order fulfillment to a product return or exchange.

In recent PwC research, customers said they were more willing to try and buy brands from companies that offered a superior customer experience. The PwC report posed this question: “What truly makes for a good experience? Speed. Convenience. Consistency. Friendliness. And human touch -- that is, creating real connections by making technology feel more human and giving employees what they need to create better customer experiences.”

To effect seamless business processes for customers online and even in-store, IT needs to be engaged, and CIOs need to take a leading role.

Part of this role is enabling new technologies and streamlining business processes, but it’s equally important to benchmark customer satisfaction for these new technologies and processes against the older methods that were used -- and to monetize the results in hard numbers for customer loyalty and retention, and revenue results.

3. New product development

In the past three years, I've met several CIOs who left their corporate IT jobs to head up spinoff companies in the technology space for their parent companies. The CIOs I spoke with were working in the financial services sector. They were leading new ventures in online banking, card services and analytics and risk assessment. Their common goal was to take new products that IT, in collaboration with the end business, had developed for their customer bases, and to expand these bases. In the process of doing this, the CIOs became spinoff CEOs with their own new lines of revenue-generating business.

This is a departure from past practice, where IT and CIOs were relegated to back-office functions. As more business and products become digital, we are likely to see more CIOs take the helm of new corporate spinoff companies with profit and loss responsibilities.

4. Outsourcing services

In recent years, a number of organizations have also begun to monetize their own internal IT by extending their services and products to customer-companies outside of their own enterprises.

An example is a large bank that has a complete portfolio of systems for processing online banking transactions, credit and debit cards, loans, security, risk assessment and analytics.

Smaller community banks might not be able to afford all these bells and whistles, so what happens is these smaller organizations agree to pay fees for service to the larger bank. In turn, the larger bank’s IT department supports the systems that the community banks have contracted for, and that they couldn’t afford on their own.

This business arrangement can be a win-win for everyone. The community banks obtain the systems and services that they otherwise couldn't afford, and the large bank receives revenue dollars from its community bank customers that offset or exceed IT expenses.

In this model, it’s possible to create an IT corporate spinoff that manages the community bank business, but also possible to operate this business from within the internal IT operation. In either scenario, the CIO has profit and loss responsibility for the business, and IT must be able to support the needs of outside customers, as well as its own internal needs.

In Summary

The future of business is digital, although many corporate executives fear (and have experienced) digital failures. It is CIOs who are now being asked to lead their companies out of this digital wilderness.

This isn’t a small undertaking. It will require CIOs getting their heads around P&L sheets as well as budgets. Nevertheless, this is the role that more companies expect their CIOs to assume.

What to Read Next:

Interim CIOs Favored as Organizations Seek Digitalization Push

InformationWeek Salary Survey: What IT Pros Earn

The Restructuring CIO: Transforming How IT Works

About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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