Hemal Shah, executive director and APJ CIO at Dell, says enterprises are today in an era of technology-led business growth, where new technology solutions are being leveraged to create competitive and differentiated advantage for the organization.
Traditional enterprises could be scaling-up their IT infrastructure or adopting a complete scale-out commodity; or it could be a generational shift that is significantly disrupting companies and their customers’ and partners’ organizations.
An example of this would be the advent of the cloud-centric IT landscape which has unleashed key forces for change in IT management, legacy systems, cloud migration and outsourcing. This cloud-powered transformation is bound to boost business outcomes. Along with the cloud and trends like big data, social and mobility, there is the next wave of potential disruptive technologies such as artificial/machine intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing etc., which will further add to the differentiated advantage.
The changing role of CIOs – then and now
CIOs were historically focused on operations and delivery and being involved in ensuring backend infrastructure and support services to their internal customers that keep the lights on for their respective organizations. The role of the CIOs was about cost efficiency, increase in productivity of the organization, and simplifying the internal operations so that the rest of the organization can focus on building their respective businesses.
But today, having reached a point where all of these processes are almost automated, the next wave of contribution from the CIOs has to be to drive business growth and innovation. The challenge lies in identifying newer opportunities in the market or seeking growth with the existing set of customers that the organization really needs to action to build the business to the next level. The CIO’s role is gradually moving from that of a cost centre to that of an innovation leader capable of increasing the ratio of time and investment in innovation.
Role of the CIO as the driving force for business innovation
The CIO is at the center of a whirlwind of changes in the economy and the enterprise. The industry is seeing a paradigm shift in the role of the CIO from the peripheries of the enterprise, to the epicentre of it, bringing together the different internal departments and aligning them to a common goal of business growth. Their role of tying IT and business together has evolved to include end-to-end functions such as data processing, knowledge management, overseeing technology convergence, while grappling with the challenges of compliance, security concerns, data protection and most importantly cost-cutting.
IDC rightly predicted in a 2014 report that during the next two years, the primary role of 70 percent of CIOs will change from directly managing IT to becoming innovation partners, redefining the “I” in CIO as “Innovation” scope. The CIOs today are to be viewed as those who are capable of not only running the data centre efficiently but also those who can use their technological know-how to gain competitive advantage for their business – identifying newer opportunities before they are spotted by others in the same space.
The CIOs are expected to build a framework for sustainable innovations, transforming IT from a being an isolated department to one that is integrated with business needs. Organizations of today need to find a way to disrupt the marketplace, or be disrupted – and in this paradigm it is critical for the CIO’s role to be an even more integrated business leader.
It’s a very interesting and exciting time for a CIO. The new-age CIO is increasingly maturing into a true business leader, equipped with the skillsets and business experience in the organization, not just in IT. The time is ripe for the CIOs to sit alongside the CEOs, CFOs and the sales & marketing team. Being able to communicate with all levels of the organization, building a platform to share ideas and engage people in communication and the process of dialogue, allows for consensus on strategic decisions at all levels. Today’s CIO has the option to rise to the challenge and embrace these changes thus making them the agents of change for success in the coming years.
By Hemal Shah, executive director and APJ CIO at Dell