The toughest job in corporate America, says Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, is the CIO’s. While I agree with Hurd’s assessment, I also believe that business-minded, forward-looking CIO’s have an incredible opportunity to play leading roles in the digital/physical revolution that is transforming every facet of our lives.
CIO’s of the world, it’s time to jump into this revolution fearlessly and joyfully because your backgrounds, your perspectives, your expertise, and your imaginations are needed desperately by your companies as they attempt to engage deeply in this richly blended digital/physical mix—or risk slipping into a nonstop decline marked by unfixable difficulties, growing irrelevance, and, ultimately, oblivion.
As Oracle CIO Mark Sunday says, “This is the most challenging time in history to be a CIO, because in order to survive, organisations need to embrace new technologies at an unparalleled pace. But by the same token, CIO’s have never had a better opportunity to add value to their organisations—if they embrace the challenge.”
Welcome to the fourth annual list of the major challenges and opportunities global CIO’s will face in the coming year. In last year’s prognostication, we noted, “Throughout 2014, the CIO profession was subjected to a baffling series of apocalyptic forecasts and dire predictions that have proven to be laughably wrong,” and asked, “Where did all these distortions and misperceptions about the stewards of IT strategy and execution come from?”
And as we head into 2016, I have to say that those prophets of doom, who just 12 to 18 months ago were so doggedly insistent that CIO’s were about to take permanent residence next to the Dodo, have changed their tunes, rewritten their histories, and realised that the vectors of profound change in today’s global economy—cloud computing, the Internet of Things, mobile everywhere, social lifestyles blending with social commerce, and the blurring of enterprise tech and personal tech—point to nothing but a greatly enriched future for smart and aggressive CIO’s.
From our perspective, we see that future coalescing around four key activities or attributes that world-class CIO’s are embracing:
- Creators of a new cultural outlook of aggressive possibilities, of new products and services, and of new capabilities, all of which are essential building blocks in their company’s digital transformation;
- Evangelists for cloud computing and its transformative potential, for social business, for data-driven decision-making, and for digital-first thinking throughout the organisation;
- Transformers of corporate culture as IT pivots from reactive responder to aggressive innovator; from “you’ll take what we give you” to “we’ll accelerate and enhance your initiatives”; and from analog paper-based processes to digital workflows and collaborative approaches driven by data;
- Accelerators of everything from product development to procurement, and from decision-making to deployment of resources as the epochal shift to cloud computing liberates huge chunks of IT budgets and paves the way for truly customer-centric business.
Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2016
- Create New Revenue Streams. The digitisation of our everyday lives opens up huge possibilities for IT-inspired innovation in new products, new services, new data-as-a-product offerings, and other innovations that enhance customer engagement while also boosting revenue.
- Create a New Can-Do Culture. Cloud computing and the ongoing explosion of social/mobile services offer CIO’s superb building blocks for demonstrating to business units around the world that the IT organisation has permanently shed its “Dr. No” persona, with the initials “IT” now representing what the CIO’s team really stands for: innovation/transformation.
- Create Dazzling—and Relevant—New Apps. What percentage of the IT organisation is now focused on building customer-centric apps? How does that figure compare to last year? How much will it grow in 2016? World-class CIO’s will find ways to transform their teams into engines of customer engagement, with app creation at the centre.
- Evangelise the Business Benefits of Cloud Computing. Are you talking to the CMO about SOA, or about the lifetime value of customers? In the cloud, product-development cycle times are shorter, customer trends can be spotted more quickly, top performers can co-create career-development plans, and the CFO can stop being a historian. Are you telling these stories clearly and passionately?
- Evangelise the Power of Digital Business. As GE CIO Jim Fowler noted above, the marriage of digital capabilities with traditional products and services opens up big possibilities for creating new value for customers—new insights into how products are performing, which new services are most profitable, where to promote certain products at certain times, and which high-performing people are at risk of leaving.
- Transform Traditional Ideas/Silos of “What We Do.” Per the opening quotation of this article, wearable tech is starting to turn the medical field upside down, and we’re seeing digitally activated shelves in retail, intelligent sensors revolutionising preventive maintenance, ingestible medications, driverless cars, smart clothing, and much more. How can the CIO disrupt traditional thinking within her company by showcasing what already is, as well as what is possible?
- Transform Customer Engagement. A while back, the newly named CIO of one of Asia’s leading airlines described his company’s eye-popping realisation that top customers desired zero human interaction until they were actually on the plane. What customers really want is often greatly at odds with what we as businesses are accustomed to—or comfortable—delivering. In 2016, CIO’s must help lead the way in bridging this gap and driving customer-centric engagements.
- Transform Decision-Making from Gut-Level to Data-Driven. Think of the astonishing volumes of data residing within large organisations—and think how few of those valuable assets are being exploited to enhance the decision-making ability of employees at all levels of the company. CIO’s have a perfect opportunity to work with business leaders to unlock those data assets and put them to work in delivering real-world, real-time insights that create success for the business, for customers, and for employees.
- Accelerate the Reversal of the 80/20 Budget Trap via Cloud Computing. Before cloud computing, the #1 enemy of the CIO was the economic reality that about 80% of his IT budget would be consumed by low-value maintenance and integration. Because cloud computing pushes that burden over to cloud vendors, CIO’s can liberate huge portions of their budgets and reallocate them to projects centred on growth and customer engagement. The faster this happens, the better.
- Accelerate Deployment of World-Class Cybersecurity. The traditional IT operating model was a security nightmare because IT environments were made up of thousands of disparate components cobbled together, with each piece requiring its own unique security protocols. In the cloud, CIO’s have the opportunity to flip that model from thousands of vulnerabilities to a single, unified, top-to-bottom cybersecurity stack where the cloud vendor shoulders that burden. (Oracle believes security has to be built in at every layer of the cloud stack, and that’s become a competitive differentiator for Oracle Cloud.) And remember, cybersecurity is a journey, not a destination. As Sunday has said, “your cybersecurity capabilities need to evolve continuously in order to meet an ever-more sophisticated and ever-evolving threat landscape. Having world-class cybersecurity means having the ability to detect and remediate today’s threats, while maintaining the capability to morph to meet the needs of tomorrow.”
And as 2016 looms, best wishes to all you CIO’s out there for a year filled with achievement, excitement, engagement, and success. I hope it’s a year in which you get to flex those muscles that let you create, evangelise, transform, and accelerate in ways that dazzle and delight your customers, and bring opportunities and success to you and your colleagues. As Christopher Lochhead says, “Knock ‘em alive!”
Full credit for the article to Bob Evans, SVP and Chief Communications Officer for Oracle – Please share your feedback with him on Twitter at @bobevansIT