The Four Roles of the New IT Leader

By Charles Araujo

I was having lunch the other day with a friend of mine who is a CIO at a large organization in the bio-pharma space. As we discussed what the future of IT might look like, I asked him what he was thinking about these days—i.e., what was keeping him up at night.

“I am really beginning to wonder if the role of the CIO will continue to exist in the future,” he said. “At the very least, it’s going to look a lot different than it does right now.”

I agreed, and as we continued the conversation, a few things became clear to both of us. First, there would be a continuing role for the CIO and the IT organization as a whole. The use of IT is simply too strategic, but the role of the organization and its leaders would change dramatically. The first of those changes will be the essence of IT leadership itself. It will no longer be only the senior management team that will be called upon to lead the organization. It will be everyone. Every one of us will be called upon to be a part of leading the IT organization into this future.

As our conversation concluded, we settled on four key roles that the new IT leader, which means almost all of us, will be called upon to perform. Begin building capabilities and expertise in these areas and you will be in high demand as the evolution of IT organizations continues.

Role #1: Trend Spotter

Part of the reason there will be a continuing role for IT and IT leaders is that the pace of technology continues to accelerate. It will be impossible for business executives and managers to keep track of or make sense of it all. The new IT leader will be called upon to constantly scan the horizon, looking for both emerging technologies and emerging threats. You will be called upon to be equal parts opportunist and risk manager. On the one hand, you will be asked to sift through the endless array of emerging technologies to identify those that may be leveraged by your organization to create a distinct market advantage. In some cases, the emerging technologies will be able to be combined with business practices or other technologies to create defensible innovations (see role #4). In others, they will represent no more than a temporary advantage, so speed will be critical. In either case, the key will be to be able to find the “diamonds in the rough” and to curate the right mix of emerging technologies that can create marketable value for the organization.

At the same time, the new IT leader will also be asked to identify emerging risks in that same evolving landscape. Are there emerging technologies that have the potential to disrupt the organization’s market advantage? Have competitors innovated in a way that requires a rapid response? There will be no one better than the IT leader to be able to act as this strategic trend spotter identifying both risk and opportunity from among the flood of emerging technologies. IT leaders that can effectively fulfill this role will be extremely valuable.


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