The evolution of the CIO: an evolving role

Over the last couple of years, CIOs have transformed from managing functional and technology operations into strategic change agents, tasked with enhancing business growth. Chris Adcock, Managing Director of Reed – Technology, explores the latest developments in the role.

4 mins read
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5 months ago

​Technology has become ingrained in almost every part of business life – no matter the industry or sector.

As employers have learned to survive in unstable market conditions, they’ve come to realise the value of having an innovative and business-focused chief information officer (CIO).

With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, the traditional responsibilities of the CIO have expanded, with their role becoming increasingly important to the success of an organisation. In today’s business world, CIOs are required to not only manage IT infrastructure and systems, but also to drive forward and align technology initiatives with overarching business goals.

The changing role

Historically, the CIO's primary focus has been on overseeing the implementation and maintenance of technology systems within an organisation. However, as businesses have become more reliant on technology for their operations and growth, the role has evolved to encompass a broader set of responsibilities.

Today, CIOs are expected to be strategic business partners who are there to help enhance operational efficiency and leverage technology to create competitive advantages – maximising the return on the company’s investment in technology. In other words, it’s now essential for a CIO to focus not only on cost savings, but on using technology to add value and increase revenue for the business.

CIOs are now required to collaborate closely with other c-suite executives to align technology initiatives with overall business objectives, identify opportunities for digital transformation, and mitigate potential risks associated with technology adoption. It’s an exciting era, as CIOs now have the chance to be transformational leaders who can harness technological advancements and data to consolidate their tech stacks and gain efficiency.

Challenges in staying up to date

Staying current with the latest technological developments can be a considerable challenge. The rapid pace of innovation, coupled with the proliferation of widespread AI technologies, presents a daunting task for CIOs looking to stay informed and ready to address the potential impact these technologies can have on their organisation.

According to digital adoption platform, Userlane, and leading consultancy, PwC, almost two thirds of CIOs surveyed were concerned that the state of the economy will affect their digital transformation plans. But at the same time, 62% plan to deepen their investment in technology, illustrating just how important technology integration now is at leadership level.

One of the biggest challenges is offering digital services that are safe and secure for the consumer, which makes cybersecurity a number one priority for the majority of CIOs; their responsibility is to protect the systems and data that shareholders and stakeholders entrust them with.

As cyber threats become more sophisticated, CIOs must continually evaluate and implement robust security measures to safeguard their organisations' data and infrastructure.

Understanding the capabilities of AI

Given the uptake in generative AI across the workplace, it’s no surprise that AI is expected to shape the future of business. Large language models (LLMs) will continue to play a part in generating documentation on business processes, designing training programmes, and writing and rewriting code.

AI has been hotly anticipated by technology departments for a while, but has only recently reached a point where its potential benefits, capabilities, and enhancements, have become clear. CIOs are being asked to learn what AI is capable of and how it can be harnessed to competitive or strategic advantage across the business – similar to the adoption of any other technology.

More recently, generative AI is offering an entry point for companies looking to spearhead investment decisions. Rather than manually researching information, CIOs have the ability to use generative AI to summarise markets, telling them where to look and where to harness department energy.

Managing business needs

This transformation now sees CIOs juggling evolving responsibilities, to shape their departments. This requires a thorough understanding of their organisation's strategic objectives – helped by their c-suite role – as well as the ability to identify and prioritise technology initiatives that will best support those objectives.

As the role grows, it’s important for CIOs to develop and maintain strong relationships with other business leaders and departments, gaining insights into their challenges and opportunities, and leveraging technology to address them. As a company grows, so does the amount of data, which makes having an innovative leader and strong IT department even more essential.

We’re seeing CIOs steering the ship, promoting continuous improvement within their teams, while further encouraging the exploration of new technologies to drive meaningful change to stay competitive, relevant, and secure.

The sooner companies realise the true value of the CIO position, the better their chances of success.

To find a talented tech professional for your company, or to take the next step in your career, contact our specialist technology recruiters now.

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