Mark Feil

01.06.2021

In a recent report entitled Gartner Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond, a Gartner contributor boldly stated that by 2024, 25% of traditional large-enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming “COO by proxy.” No one can argue that as enterprise processes have become digitized, today’s CIOs are being challenged to shoulder many tasks that traditionally fell under the operations umbrella. Over the past few decades, technology has helped streamline processes and create efficiencies across the enterprise, making IT support integral to every organizational silo, from marketing to finance to customer support.

How the role of the CIO changed in 2020

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations worldwide to rethink the way they do business. IT teams scrambled to set up remote working capabilities for the majority of staff, which was no small feat from an operational standpoint. As we enter 2021, many are still successfully working from home thanks to operational controls, technology and the support staff that maintain it.

All of this has taught us how important ‘composability’ is in business. According to Gartner, one of the keys to enabling business success in 2021 and beyond, is to engineer your organization for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty. That means accelerating digital business initiatives so that you’re able to quickly and smartly react to external circumstances and optimize business processes accordingly.

Companies that are cloud natives already have an advantage. However, as CIOs are increasingly being called on to enhance operations and help make their organizations more nimble, they have less time to focus on important initiatives such as cloud management and security.

The impact of digital transformation in the enterprise

External pressures are forcing the C-suite to evolve, and new roles keep popping up in response to this digital transformation. The organizational silos that have always existed are now becoming somewhat obsolete. Enterprises that were once vertical in nature are being flattened by digitization. As they become more horizontal, they’re increasingly resistant to the vertical roles that once governed them.

So how are business leaders supposed to overcome these challenges and equip their organizations with the composability they need to accomplish future goals? In the wake of such a drastic digital conversion in 2020, how do you build a C-suite that works with this new model? Who should report to whom? And finally, how should CIOs think differently in the coming year? Future-proofing the enterprise won’t be easy, and it will likely require significant changes.

Closing the gaps in what technology can do and what your business wants to do

Since people are often opposed to such change, it is not recommended that an internal leader conduct such a drastic shakeup. Instead, it is recommended that you engage a project management organization or other third-party consultant to analyze your business and technical processes. It’s also wise to partner with a culture consultant who can bring an outside view and help facilitate a smooth transition. You may find that outsourcing some of your IT services will free up your CIO and support staff so that they can focus on their core business which is now heavily centered on enhancing operations.

When outsourcing, it’s best to find a partner with multiple views of the environment in order to address any gaps in service. Keep in mind that what you knew yesterday about the tech stack is not necessarily what you’ll need to know in the future. IT professionals should no longer consider themselves purely technologists but rather business optimization professionals, and outsourcing the baseline technology set will allow for that shift. The ideal partner can expertly manage your cloud environment and provide value through technical and operational best practices, cost optimization and a specific focus on security and compliance.

While Gartner’s view is that the roles of CIO and COO will merge in the coming years, it is unlikely that internal IT teams are ready for a total transformation. The breaking down of operations and IT silos has been a very slow process that may never be complete. Some CIOs don’t believe it would be entirely appropriate, as there are still many COO responsibilities that do not quite fit into the CIO’s business model. So, we may see a new title taking over this role in the future. As with everything, there will be early adopters such as cloud-native businesses and others where the bulk of operations are already in the digital environment, as well as organizations such as those operating with legacy systems that may never adopt it.

The bottom line is that a CIO’s role, and that of its support staff, is no longer just about technology. Holistic thinkers know that as we move forward, the focus should be more about the overall business and culture of an organization. COVID-19 forced the operational model to change overnight, and it’s impossible to go back to the way it was before. The past year highlighted how CIOs can drive digitalization across the organization — and how their shift in focus from purely IT to contributing to overall business operations is integral to future success.

To learn about how Lightstream can help your organization overcome complex technology convergence challenges through a flexible mix of consulting, integration and managed services, visit www.lightstream.tech.

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Mark Feil

01.06.2021

Keep Informed