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We are in the thick of the digital technology era -- there is little doubt about that.
No one knows if this technology period will prove to be a blessing or a curse for CIOs. But we already know that success will be determined less by the business executives of today or the CIOs who have grown up in the cost-reduction mode of the last 15 years. Business success in the digital technology era is driven by technology, but it is really not about technology itself. It is about the ability to envision how the technology can be used to capture business value. And for CIOs, it is about creating a new IT operation that is focused on one overriding capability: rapid, minimally disruptive, low-cost, low-risk change.
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To be able to support rapid, minimally disruptive, low-cost, low-risk change, CIOs will need to know what every technology can do and what it will take to do it, but they will not be technicians. They will not be focused on running an IT shop and making certain the staff do a good job. In the digital technology era, that role is executed by the CTO or some other new position responsible for the operations of the technical environment and its constant re-engineering as the company strives to keep up with how customers want to do business with it.
This redefinition of CIO responsibilities is not some far-off goal -- it is happening now. Digital technology-era CIOs are moving into the executive suite and taking on more business responsibilities, including the role of leading digital business transformation.
And make no mistake, this role change for CIOs will only accelerate, as the distinction between technology and business operations continues to blur. Indeed, every midsize and large company today is already in the technology business; they simply cannot exist without IT -- but not just any old IT.
Companies need cost-effective technology that can help them meet customer demands for fast and personalized service. Second-generation business process automation tools, coupled with robotic process automation bot generation, will soon become the new standard. And although it will take some time, these two technologies will be used to replace all legacy applications. Why? Because they are cost-effective and they give companies unparalleled flexibility. This move away from legacy technologies has significant implications for the CIO.
In the digital technology era, CIOs are strategists and orchestrators. They will need to be technology visionaries and monitor customer technology buying patterns and trends. As noted, while digital-age CIOs need to know the capabilities of the technology that is available, their real job will be to:
- orchestrate how all the available, disparate technical components will be used in solutions;
- demonstrate how they will combine to support enterprise processes; and
- calculate how each solution will impact both the business operation and customer interaction demands.
In this way, the CIO becomes the key to technology and business integration -- ensuring that the IT capabilities allow the company to quickly adjust to the customer and the market. The digital-age CIO espouses a philosophy of flexibility and rapid response. This philosophy, in turn, drives the redesign of the company's IT infrastructure to reduce technical complexity and the rethinking of how applications will be built.
Thus, the CIO functions as part of the OPEX management group, playing a key role in shaping a business strategy and explaining how both the business and IT will need to evolve in order to implement that strategy.
Because it will take time to make these changes, the sooner CIOs begin to accept this new reality, the more time they will have to evaluate, plan, adjust roles and rethink how IT will best serve the company of the future.
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