State of the CIO: The role is expanding beyond traditional IT responsibilities


Having proved their mettle in Covid-19, CIOs have their boards’ attention, says Sage’s Gerhard Hartman.

By Gerhard Hartman, vice president, medium business for Sage Africa & Middle East

Just a few years ago, the rapid rise of the cloud and on-demand technology led industry observers to speculate that the role of the CIO might shrink or even disappear. On the contrary, the accelerated pace of digital transformation has highlighted the vital role played by CIOs in every part of the business, from sales and marketing to HR and the supply chain.

In the wake of Covid-19 lockdowns, technology is in the spotlight. Having helped their organisations rapidly enable remote working and customer service models in the early months of the pandemic, CIOs have the board’s attention. They are seizing the moment to advocate for technology modernisation and stepping up digital transformation programmes.

Digital transformation: The priority for 2022 and beyond

According to the Industrial Development Corporation, investments in digital transformation and cloud technology will increase IT spending by 2.8 percent to $77.5 billion in Africa, the Middle East and Turkey this year. Much of the investment will go into cloud tech and digital communications tools to support remote work. As a portion of the total IT budget, spending on digital transformation will rise from 25 percent in 2020 to 37 percent in 2024.

During this period, the CIO will have a critical role in bedding down remote working and digital customer interaction models their organisations put in place during the pandemic. One of the key priorities will be to strengthen cybersecurity and business continuity to ensure the enterprise is ready for future risks.

What’s more, having shown their mettle during the pandemic, CIOs are starting to play more active roles in other parts of the business. They are, for example, becoming more involved in conversations about delivering customer and employee experiences via digital technology. In some cases, they may even be party to discussions about supply chain resilience, risk management and compliance.

CIOs taking on expanded roles

According to IDG’s global State of the CIO survey, 96 percent of CIOs reported that their role is expanding beyond traditional IT responsibilities. More than half (57 percent) said cybersecurity has become a key part of their portfolio, while 44 percent saw their role in data privacy and compliance expand. Forty percent, meanwhile, have taken on customer experience responsibilities.

This isn’t surprising, given how rapidly processes in every part of the business are becoming digitalised. Decisions about creating better customer experiences, working productively or making better business decisions are today about digital technology. CIOs have a natural role to play in supporting or even making these decisions.

As they embrace this expanded role in the business, CIOs are facing a conflict between the imperatives of driving innovation and keeping the lights on. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of running a tight ship. Efficient, resilient, productive and forward-thinking CIOs also know end-users expect more from them in terms of innovation.

We are seeing enterprises invest more in automating IT operations and accelerating the move to the cloud to free up time and funding for innovation. These projects may include automation initiatives to drive massive gains in productivity and transforming finance into a data-driven function while supporting the effort to grow revenues through digital channels, products and business models.

Futureproofing the business

Increasingly, the CIO’s role – similar to that of CFO’s – is now about futureproofing the business in a time of constant change. This is no longer just about implementing technology but also ensuring the organisation remains aligned with evolving customer and employee expectations and that it can respond with agility to new business needs.

This imperative means the CIO is increasingly becoming an even more strategic partner in the business, collaborating with other members of the C-suite, and aligning business and technology to drive better business performance.


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