How Automation Empowers the CIO to Think Outside the IT Department

The CIO's role is evolving into one that is more business focused, and it's a new generation of tech tools that enables that shift.

Today’s CIOs no longer work in a silo. Companies worldwide are introducing automated technology across almost every facet of their businesses. Automation is already transforming the roles of employees across organizations, fundamentally altering the ways many work and communicate.

Historically, technology was developed or integrated behind closed doors among tech teams, with little input from the employees tasked with using it day-to-day. Groups like human resources and finance move in a lock-step with the advancements of this technology. It’s clear that now, more than ever before, technology is a key part of departmental workflows.

After more than 30 years working within the technology industry myself, I’ve witnessed firsthand how these new workplace technologies are increasing efficiency and redefining responsibilities amongst teams. Over half of my time within the tech industry has been spent leading operations, working in tandem with technical strategists. Due to the operational transformation happening within today's businesses, mainly the pervasiveness of automated technology across departments, we are witnessing the evolution of a role that has been predominantly technical in the past — that of the CIO.

CIOs today are not only expected to be technologically proficient, but need to keep a pulse on the business goals and strategic insights across an entire organization. As automated tech begins touching more and more departments and roles, the CIO will increasingly serve as a key player in the digital transformation of an entire company. Here are some ways that new AI-powered automation is changing how CIOs perform as technical leaders.

Demystifying technology trends to meet business needs. CIOs’ expertise has evolved from solely determining the right systems needed to meet general computing needs. Today, IT leaders are responsible for driving better business decisions by establishing which trends in technology are simply flashy add-ons and which innovations can provide measurable business value. In our increasingly connected society, both at home and in the office, businesses have reevaluated IT strategies to be more digital and mobile, a phenomenon known as the consumerization of IT.

The influx of cloud-based platforms transformed how CIOs approached their work. Today, IT leaders are stepping out of their traditional roles within their department and working across the company to inform what kinds of technologies can best help to address business needs and achieve new goals. CIOs need a comprehensive understanding of business strategy to recommend these new IT strategies. This shift elevates the CIO role to that of a business advisor charged with stimulating growth within the company.

Shifting from IT infrastructure to data-driven decision making. A key differentiator within this new reformation of the CIO office is the introduction of AI-powered capabilities into business decision-making. Insights gleaned from internal data are used to inform next steps for the business. AI-powered automation optimizes IT operations. By enabling automation tech to take on more tedious administrative work, IT teams are free to work on more strategic projects, like sourcing solutions that will yield growth.

CIOs involved in business strategy are using AI-enhanced software to get a holistic view of the business. Automation and data gathering will be used to understand where the business is today, what gaps exist, and how companies can benchmark success to, in the long term, predict business outcomes. Rather than being labeled as a "process" person, CIOs are expert consultants. With an understanding of what the business needs to achieve, CIOs identify which kinds of technology best meet the goals of each segment of the company: whether it’s HR, finance, legal, etc.

Moving forward with new school IT. The CIO of the today is the CEO of tomorrow. A CIO’s new focus on business strategy, and their understanding of how technology can improve business growth and innovation, primes them for a transition into more operational leadership roles across the C-suite. In fact, nearly eight in 10 CIOs and business leaders agree that in 10 years, the skills and knowledge in their organization will bear little resemblance to those they have today. The CIO isn’t the only person in their department poised for new roles. This new scope of work has opened up new hiring requirements for IT staff as well. Easy-to-use vendor solutions deprioritized the need for knowledge of legacy IT systems, so IT leaders are looking for employees with skills in AI development to inform a new vision for the company. Using tools with business intelligence and predictive analytic features equips IT teams with the insider knowledge necessary to revamp a corporate vision and policies.

Ultimately, business intelligence and automation tools free up time for CIOs and IT teams to focus on more strategic aspects of the business and provide a more holistic view of a company. These new technologies are rewriting how CIOs function within the IT department, across the company, and as a part of the C-Suite. Moving forward, emerging technologies are going to challenge how we think about the CIO role and how technology informs business growth and strategy.

Nancy Harris is Executive Vice President and Managing Director, North America at Sage, a global market leader in business software that helps manage everything from money to people.

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