Gone are the days when IT managers could breathe easy because their organisation relied on a fast cable connection to the Internet. They grew complacent if they had an up-and-running network 24/7 that kept information flowing down the paths the executives wanted it to go. Times change.
Today’s business world is a complex digital landscape teeming with interdepartmental connections, mobile devices, remote workers, and external digital connections to suppliers, transport, financial institutions, service providers, and others. This digital landscape developed at a time when customers demand access to business information anytime, anywhere, any way they want it. All these expectations put IT in the front lines of business innovations. Read on to see how IT managers are influencing the way businesses run.
Customer demands make IT more visible within the company.
The newly empowered customer demands 24/7 access, mobility and cloud services. This, in turn, causes 21st century businesses to turn to IT Managers/CIOs not only to provide additional technical services but for his knowledge on how to apply that specialised technology to the business’ goals, processes, and efficacy of its infrastructure.
A growing trend (perhaps 20% of companies today) gives the head of IT several titles to indicate the various roles he plays. Other companies split the role between the Chief Technical Officer (CTO), who provides the nuts-and-bolts technical expertise, and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) who applies those special services to the business’ critical needs. Dual IT leadership is not a new concept but it is starting to trend. The CIO role is often an MBA who functions as a go-between the CTO and the Board, especially if the relationship between the two is tense.
Examples of the kinds of titles a CIO can accumulate presents a good picture of the expanded IT Manager/CIO role. For example, the organisation may crown the CIO as the “head of” business transformation if the organisation’s goals include moving in new directions in response to disruptive innovations. Or the CIO may become head of service delivery or the supply chain in those organisations that identify those areas warrant new technologies to stay competitive.
The characteristics of companies that give additional duties to IT heads.
Not every company will want to make the IT Manager more visible. The company that views IT as just another cost of doing business will focus on maximising the cheapest results and will not want to spend its dollars on innovation.
The company that will give IT additional roles is the organisation that views IT as a growth enzyme. Such organisations view IT as a tool to help move innovative ideas from the drawing board to the production line, and as the key to entering the Digital Enterprise. CIOs often function as managers over outsourced, cloud services in such organisations. The company that accepts that its future lies in the Digital Enterprise zone also recognises the need to have a C-level IT Manager for information services and applications whether they are in-house or part of cloud services.
Who makes the first contact.
In most cases, it is the IT Manager who initiates contact with the C-Suite in order to show them the advantages of innovative technologies and how applying those technologies will push the business forward to success in the new digital world. The CIO must analyse his organisation’s infrastructure to understand its limitations and to convey to the C-Suite the parts of the existing infrastructure that either hinder or help innovation when applied to the business’ priorities. It is the CIO who is well-placed within the organisation to understand the business’ adaptability with respect to changes in the law. It is the CIO who can see, from a technical standpoint, the organisation’s ability to respond to compliance issues that arise due to increased regulatory requirements. The IT Manager/CIO can explain in laymen’s terms how upgrading the organisation’s infrastructure and/or how utilising cloud services will address the organisation’s issues going forward. It is this special ability that requires the IT Manager proactively to pursue interfacing with the C-Suite.
CIOs engage with colleagues and make them see the vision.
IT Managers have a story to tell and they need to tell it in a dramatic fashion. The task is easier when the CEO understands how important it is to transition to Digital Enterprise. Sometimes the CEO does not understand the need for transition. He may not understand that his company must embrace the technological innovations that drive business disruption or pay the consequences. Successful CIOs/IT Managers keep nightmare tales at their fingertips to underscore the perils that await companies who ignore the coming changes. IT Managers gather stories for their arsenal, examples of how quickly competitors and partner-suppliers are changing from traditional web to mobile. They have examples of how disruption has caused problems for others in the industry and the financial turmoil that others have endured when trying to catch up.
The truth is that the Digital Enterprise is a Perfect Storm, of sorts. The disruption caused by the consumers’ demand for mobility and cloud services, the empowered consumer, the intense effects of social networking, the big data explosion and advanced data analytics — all happening at the same time — create a leadership challenge for businesses poised at the edge of the Digital Enterprise. It is the IT Manager/CIO –with his deep knowledge of IT platforms, best practices, innovations in technology and information systems — who holds the key to moving the organisation forward.