CIO Role Expands into Company Culture, Customer Experience

As the pandemic drove more transactions and work online, the enterprise CIO's role expanded to be more focused on business, customers, and employee culture.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

April 26, 2021

3 Min Read
AliFuat via Adobe Stock

A year into the pandemic, after the acceleration of digital business initiatives and the race to work from home, businesses are starting to contemplate what a post-COVID era would look like. In some cases, they are considering what a return to the office would entail, whether it's hybrid or something else. They are looking at new sales channels created out of necessity during the pandemic and how the mix will play going forward.

CIO roles have also evolved considerably during the pandemic. As the technology experts in the C-suite, these executives have stepped up to enable the quick work-from-home pivots and expanded e-commerce sales channels. Technology was central to how society and business continued to operate during the height of the pandemic, so it's not surprising that many of these technology executives saw their roles grow.

At least three-quarters of CIOs say their role has expanded, their responsibilities have increased, and that they have greater influence on leadership decisions within their organizations, according to a newly released survey of more than 500 CIOs conducted by Adobe and Fortune. Of CIOs surveyed, 200 were from the US, 150 were from EMEA, and 156 were from APAC regions. Adobe released the survey results ahead of its Adobe Summit, which starts on April 27.

"Despite the enormous weight on our shoulders, CIOs are stepping up to the challenge," said Cynthia Stoddard, SVP and CIO at Adobe, in a prepared statement. "Along with other business leaders, we have embraced our enhanced responsibilities and influence as an opportunity to further collaborate and succeed in today's new digital-first reality."

Security remains a top priority for CIOs, particularly in a year with high-profile breaches and an expansion of digital business initiatives. A total of 71% of US-based CIOs said that security and privacy are a key priority and the most likely area for increased investment in 2021.

The survey results also signal that many CIOs have taken their IT organizations beyond the cost-center role within the enterprise to a broader role that includes contributing to supporting business value.

For instance, 95% of CIOs said they strongly agree that partnering with the chief marketing officer improves customer experience, and nearly 60% of CIOs meet with their CMOs on a daily or weekly basis. In addition, 93% said that working closely with their CMOs promotes innovation.

Given the close working relationship with CMOs for many CIOs, it's not so much of a surprise that these technology executives are also focused on customer experience, according to the survey. A total of 97% said they are as focused or more focused on customer experience than before the pandemic.

But as much as they are facing outward to those customer experience channels, CIOs are also concerned with the internal experience at the company, too. After all, a CIO's roots are providing IT services to employees within the company. But as the work-from-home and work-from-anywhere pivot has taken hold in the last year, this role of providing technology experiences has expanded, too.

With remote work, employees' entire work experience may be consumed via technology -- their computer, applications, and phone. In 2021, the basics of remote work will expand to incorporate more well-being initiatives and an effort for a deeper connection, according to Gartner.

Maybe that's why 89% of CIOs in the Adobe survey said they see themselves as change agents who play a role in improving the culture of their organization, particularly as remote work and hybrid work becomes the new normal.

"Given the proven correlation between happy employees, satisfied customers, and overall business success -- it's more critical than ever that CIOs prioritize any systems or business processes that improve collaboration, productivity, and overall employee experience," Stoddard said.

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Forecast of the Future of Work from MIT Sloan CIO Symposium
Why IT Leaders Should Make Cloud Training a Top Priority
Optimizing the CIO and CFO Relationship


About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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