Guest Post

CIOs lead digital transformation as pilots, co-pilots, engineers

According to Genpact's partnered study with the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, CIOs assume one of three roles: pilots, co-pilots or engineers. Here's how each role leads digital change.

Over the years, the CIO role has evolved from strategic value delivery leader to a co-creator of new businesses. This push is leading to increasing alignment across the C-suite and the opportunity for CIOs to be at the forefront of digital transformation.

This has been the case for CIOs across all industries. Life sciences companies have dramatically accelerated development cycles, consumer goods companies have reinvented direct-to-consumer business models and retailers have organized their supply chains and reimagined their storefronts, to name a few examples.

We saw evidence of this change in new research findings from "Pilots, co-pilots, and engineers: Digital transformation insights from CIOs for CIOs," a study that Genpact conducted in partnership with the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. The global study presented the views of 500 CIOs and technology leaders on lessons learned in weathering the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic and preparedness for the journey forward.

CIOs that fall into the "pilots" category (22%) are leading the way -- actively driving transformation across core business functions, according to the study. Sixty-one percent of CIOs are "co-pilots" who collaborate with business leaders to shape and deliver transformation across their businesses. And the remaining 17% are "engineers" who work to keep the business transformation on course.

It's become clear that, to create new value, CIOs need to have a seat at the table in influencing the CEO agenda. More and more (83%) CIOs are at the top of their game, taking on a strategic role in digital transformation.

Digital transformation, as the term suggests, is about two things: innovating with digital technologies and driving business transformation. To become true digital transformation leaders, CIOs must not only master technology, they must also excel at business transformation and change management.

Transformation is most effective when CIOs start with the experience they want to create and then work back across technology, people, processes and data to change how work is done end to end. CIOs must understand how teams will collaborate as more organizations institutionalize hybrid work and create cultural changes that allow their organization to flourish.

Digital transformation requires bringing new tools to the trade -- and cloud migration, big data and AI are like no other in driving business value. The survey showed that most transformation pilots, (53%) are already prioritizing machine learning to glean meaningful knowledge from their data.

CIOs are pivotal in connecting employee and customer experience. Accountability for the customer experience (CX) is something 40% of transformation pilots believe their CIO is responsible for, compared to just 22% of engineers. But the reality is that CIOs are uniquely positioned to connect CX and employee experience technologies.

"We don't sell a physical product; we sell a promise," said John Heveran, executive vice president and CIO of Global Risk Solutions at Liberty Mutual, in the report. "We promise that if something goes wrong, we'll make it right. And my role is making sure we use technology most effectively so we can deliver on that promise."

There's a true evolution happening in the CIO role and its working relationship with the CEO. With the rapid development of new digital tools, this is a time like never before. Those CIOs who evolve from simply seeing themselves as engineers and move toward becoming transformation co-pilots and pilots -- driving alignment across the C-suite and putting the organizational focus on fostering innovation -- will be the co-creators of new business models and future-ready companies.

About the author
Sanjay Srivastava leads Genpact's digital and technology businesses. He oversees the company's offerings in artificial intelligence, analytics, automation and digital technology services. Before joining Genpact, Sanjay worked as a technology entrepreneur, creating and building four startups from the founding stage to sustainable product businesses. Those firms, eventually, were individually acquired by Akamai, BMC, FIS and Genpact. Sanjay also held operating leadership roles in other large corporations including Hewlett Packard, Akamai and SunGard (now FIS), where he oversaw product management, global sales, engineering and services businesses.

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