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The emergence of the Creative CIO

A new kind of transformational and strategic CIO has started to appear, willing to harness disruption techniques and add value to the organisation

In today’s world digital capabilities are rapidly changing how we work and operate – what some commentators are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution – and the pressure has never been greater for CIOs to add value to their organisations.

The good news is we’re seeing CIOs face up to the challenge. Research from Harvey Nash and KPMG, based on responses from nearly 3,400 CIOs and IT leaders around the world (the biggest survey of its kind), reveals the emergence of a new kind of CIO.

He or she is a transformational business leader, technology strategist and business model innovator. In essence, the creative CIO.

These people are moving away from merely keeping the lights on, enabling the business to focus on creating value by harnessing social and technical disruption.

The emergence begins

The creative CIO has greater expectations placed on them to lead the delivery of the digital strategy and the pressure is on to increase the depth of their relationships outside their traditional comfort zones of finance and operations.

Only a third of CIOs, for example, report having ‘very strong’ relationships with human resources (HR), sales and marketing. This can lead to a fragmented approach when implementing a digital strategy. However, creative CIOs are beginning to broaden and strengthen their range of internal relationships accordingly.

They also often use their own IT teams and services to act as a test-bed to drive innovation, freeing up funding to push this innovation by delivering savings in other areas, for example, simplifying the IT estate through exploiting cloud and other technologies.

Of course, it’s not as easy as that. Cloud is no longer a choice, and most organisations are planning to increase their investments in cloud platforms in the coming years.

IT is not the sole purchaser of cloud solutions within the business, and organisations are struggling to build an overall strategy for migration.

And the creative CIO is developing a set of cloud scenarios (use cases) which they can take to the operational board/executive management team to bring to life the opportunities and threats.

Top technology trends for CIOs

Big data continues to be a priority, although there is still a clear competency gap, with 39% of respondents suffering from a lack of skills in this area. The creative CIO builds and leads skills development from within their existing teams and talent pools and creates an environment that can better attract and retain talent.

With 59% of organisations looking to implement agile methods to develop and deliver IT services, the so-called Next-Generation operating models offer the prospect of a continuous delivery capability.

For the creative CIO, the goal is to simplify organisational structures to successfully deliver both a more agile and innovative business environment and a more engaging customer experience.

One issue that no CIO can afford to ignore, however, is the ever-present danger of cyber attack. It is concerning that less than a quarter of IT leaders feel ‘very well positioned’ to deal with these. With CIOs still viewed as the ultimate guardians of an organisation’s security, this must continue to be an area of focus.

The report shows that this is a time of accelerating change. Those CIOs that are rising to the challenge are not relying on traditional approaches: they address disruption head-on with a clear strategy and agility in their thinking.

For those that get it right, this is an exciting time to be a CIO.

Read more in our Digital CIO series

Read more on IT management skills

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Hopefully this new transformational CIO will urge his entire department to explore and  grow through disruptive techniques. A manager who wants to repeat the past needs to run a well controlled staff. A manager who wants to move into the future will introduce disruptive techniques and let the entire company reap the rewards. 
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