Understanding the Business First

By Aaron Gette, CIO, The Bay Club Company

Aaron Gette, CIO, The Bay Club Company

Role of CIOs

The role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) was formed in the early 1980s, now almost 40 years in the making the responsibilities of the CIO have profoundly transformed. The original CIO operated as senior executive in the enterprise with responsibilities that included information technology and systems that supported business goals. Today’s business needs are rapidly change, and the CIO role must transform to succeed in the ever-present digital landscape.

CIOs must adapt to the rate of change and overcome these challenges or they will get left behind with legacy systems. The modern CIO is expected to take on multiple responsibilities embracing the management of platforms, systems and teams. The emergence of data governance, user mobility, and cloud infrastructure are key to IT strategy. While also investing in security balanced against improving data speed and access to provide the analytics to drive business decisions in real-time. CIOs must create true systems integration across platforms to identify trends, threats, and partners that align with business goals. The CIOs must ensure a company’s data is clean, accessible, easy to understand, and secure while also managing the power of a distributed workforce.

CIOs Must Have a Way to Validate a Shared Understanding of the Business Problem and the Technology Solution

CIOs face many challenges, with IT playing an even more important role in core business strategy than it has in previous years. The management of systems with data analysis and cloud infrastructure, empower CIOs to operate with agile development and be responsive to identifying and implementing new business processes.

While much of the responsibility of a CIO has shifted away from managing servers in a data center to managing cloud platforms, hardware is just as important today with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). CIOs can now utilize IoT to gather intrinsic data across an entire business operation. Leveraging sensors to record and analyze data, which can lead to more efficient practices in every aspect of the business. The benefits are in both cost savings and in driving revenues as business learn more about their customer’s actions.

Instead of being a more traditional executive, CIOs must exert their influence over new technologies to not only identify cost-saving opportunities but to also drive additional revenue streams. With their knowledge of current technological trends, take on the responsibility of maintaining and in some cases, creating the company’s competitive edge.

The responsibilities of today’s CIOs working in the forefront are changing rapidly, and those who do not adapt will quickly fall behind.

Making a Difference

CIOs can change the way the C-suite sees technology though innovation collaboration. By building digital awareness, forming digital innovation teams, and creating innovative opportunities in the form of new products and services that move the business forward. This approach accelerates collaboration and optimizes the information for driving competitive advantage. The consumerization of IT, IoT, digital transformation, and disruption continue to modify how companies compete.

The C-suite is flooding demanding and looking for answers to the fluctuating landscape and how IT can create brand defining customer experiences that provide a competitive advantage. The executive team is likely looking to the CIO for direction on how to leverage mobile devices, social media, cloud, and emerging technologies as part of the business strategy. They are counting on today’s CIO to help them understand how all these pieces come together and how best to integrate them into the business to create customer value.

IT leaders can manage this initiative if done strategically across the business. Using digital innovation collaboration strategy, IT organizations can develop a truly collaborative process that enables teams to work together more effectively. To also develop new and improved products and services that create magical customer experiences. Today’s CIOs must see the complete ecosystem, throughout the entire value chain to successfully deliver innovation collaboration. Innovation collaboration provides the ability to look at processes from a unique perspective and generates opportunities to move the business to achieve its potential.

Trends Prevailing 

Artificial Intelligence is the hottest trend, eclipsing big data, but also integrating into almost every other hot topic for the last 12 months; security, deep machine learning and IoT. The data eruption that is the IoT brings with it new security vulnerabilities. The rapid fluctuations in these trends also create new opportunities in the tech job market and challenges for IT leaders without these skillsets in their tool box.

The hottest trend, Artificial Intelligence, is evident in the combined efforts of several massive innovative players, where interacting with technology through conversation is becoming the new norm. These conversational interfaces are game changing. From the time when the first personal computers made it into our homes, we have been required to speak the language of PCs to communicate with them and now they are learning to communicate in our language. The move toward natural language interfaces has already picked up momentum with the massive amount of companies enabling chatbots, digital assistants and messaging apps that are out performing social networks in daily activity.

The real value is in the data. AI needs big data to show its value and it is also a new source of data creation. AI will inform and perform across every industry. AI is stepping in to address issues across industries and thus, it’s often gathering just as much data as it’s processing. Early adopters will get a start on the market because they know that the sooner these systems begin learning about the contexts in which they operate, the sooner they will get to work mining data to make increasingly accurate predictions.

Enterprise Networking is seeing the benefits in the budding SDWAN space, there are profound opportunities to cut costs on traditional networks as well as gain better insight into what’s happening. With many IT leaders hyper focused on mitigating the security risks outside their four walls, understanding the behavior internally is just as important. There are new platforms that are aggregating data collected on the network that can give even the most novice network engineer a vivid picture of what’s happening across the enterprise.

Advice for CIOs 

CIOs can get sidetracked by innovation, technology trends and the cloud, but the fundamentals of IT have not changed. The tools are constantly changing, but the fundamentals of IT and what leaders are responsible for has not changed. Ultimately a CIO must deliver capabilities and solutions that move the business, not demonstrate technical ability.

CIOs will never be able to automate everything, even if that is what the business is asking for. Spending exorbitantly on automating processes that you could spend less to have completed manually is the right executive decision. CIOs can’t be successful without understanding the business that they are supporting. This acumen also requires validating that understanding, or CIOs end up delivering the wrong solutions. CIOs must have a way to validate a shared understanding of the business problem and the technology solution. When IT gets the solution wrong, it’s due to a misunderstanding of the business context of the problem.

The IT team cannot spend all its time in IT, so find ways for every IT professional to spend a day working with colleagues in other departments. If you demonstrate a willingness to listen and learn, you develop a shared understanding of the problem and solution. Delivering on that strategy will build trust across the organization in both your team and your business. As you evolve your career in the CIO role, make time to develop and maintain trust into every aspect of your job.