CIOs: Time to drop the efficiency conversation

At this time of year CIOs are often looking ahead to the new year to plan the IT projects they want to complete during 2022.

According to Harvey Nash’s Digital leadership report, company boards have identified investment in technology to develop new products and services as a top priority.

Delegates tuning into Gartner’s virtual ITxpo Symposium event, were asked to consider the implications of this interest in using technology directly as a revenue generator.

It should mean good news for IT chiefs. Computer Weekly has written extensively about how IT needs to build a bridge with the business. This is a tenet of digitisation. By understanding the flows of data and paperwork through the business process, IT can help the business to reduce manual tasks, automate, digitise and improve efficiency.

It is not a new concept. The era of business process management and later, business process optimisation, provided organisations with a playbook to achieve greater efficiency by building highly integrated software systems. Digitisation is the next step on this path to greater efficiency.

Drive revenue

But, as Gartner distinguished research vice-president, John Lovelock, said, in a recent call with Computer Weekly, efficiency is not what is driving AirBnB, Netflix or Uber. These are organisations that have used technology to exploit a niche and develop an entirely new business proposition. Their approach is not evolutionary. It is revolutionary, and for Lovelock,  businesses that try to evolve into something more like these internet juggernauts are on a road to failure.

According to McKinsey’s The CIO agenda for the next 12 months article, large incumbent companies are looking to technology to be as dynamic a force in their business as it is in so many of the start-ups that are reshaping how people work, shop, communicate, make decisions, and live.

In Lovelock’s experience, companies are making generational decisions about technology. “Some of the projects that are happening now are through partnerships with technology providers who work with a client to develop a new business model,” he said. Significantly these conversations are happening at the CEO, not the CIO level.

There seem to be impassable roadblocks preventing CIOs from being at the top table in business. IT’s role is often regarded as keeping the lights on. Gains in efficiency is not the same as direct revenue gains. According to Ron Thompson, chief data officer at NASA, the role of the CDO is “closest to the top model of the business”.

The mission for CIOs in 2022 is to work out how to have their voice heard at the top table.

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