The CIO’s New Mindset in the Digital Age

IT is either an enabler and a trusted business partner, or a disabler that is perceived as grinding the wheels of progress to a screeching halt.

Many CIOs are struggling to understand their role in the new digital age. Perhaps this is due to the dramatic shift in mindset that has occurred over the past decade.

It used to be that IT dictated what technology was used in an organization. The CIO was more of a controller who set security policy, owned the assets in the data center, had control over the entire technology budget and was able to mandate what desktop or laptop devices clients used. In this old-school model, IT was often viewed as the “land of no and slow” but clients had little recourse but to grudgingly adhere to processes that felt like they evolved at a glacial pace.

Fast forward to today’s business world. Business units that are frustrated with their IT groups can take out a credit card and create a server instance in the Amazon Cloud within hours. Sales teams that feel they are getting nowhere can call Salesforce.com and pay for software as a service.

Your grandmother has more computing power and functionality in her iPhone than we had in our desktop computer just a few years ago! Today IT is either an enabler and a trusted business partner, or a disabler who is perceived as grinding the wheels of progress to a screeching halt.

What is a CIO to do? The key shift that needs to be made is one of mindset. CIOs need to view themselves not as controllers but rather as collaborators. We are in a unique position. Very few executives have as broad a view of the entire organization as we do.

If we have taken the time and effort to develop constructive relationships with our colleagues, we can leverage our knowledge of technology, project management and process discipline to work to bring together the business units, marketing groups and other key constituents to take a holistic view on how to develop and leverage our digital assets to more deeply engage and add value for our customers. Instead of worrying about who’s driving the bus, we need to spend our energy ensuring that everyone is on the bus and that the bus is going in the right direction. IT can and must be the glue that keeps everything together.

A lot of CIOs get bogged down in trying to answer the question “Who owns digital?” The answer isn’t IT or marketing or any other group, for that matter. The answer is that the entire leadership team of an organization is responsible for driving the organization’s digital experience and the only way that can happen is if we leverage collective talents and assets of all of our people across all parts of the organization. In order to do that you need to act as a team builder not an empire builder.

Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.

This article was originally published on 03-10-2015
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