From the CIO to the e-Leadership: Evolve or Die

From the CIO to the e-Leadership: Evolve or Die

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

Chief Information Officer (CIO), or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Director, is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information and communication technology that support enterprise goals.

The Chief Information Officer of an organization is responsible for a number of roles. Firstly and most importantly, the CIO must fulfil the role of business leader. As a CIO must make executive decisions regarding things such as the purchase of ICT equipment or services from vendors or the development of new systems. A CIO is responsible to lead and direct the workforce of his/her specific organization. In addition, CIOs are directly required to map out both the ICT strategy and ICT policy of an organization. Finally, the CIO has also a role of ICT governance, which refers to as the definition of an ICT policy and the steering to meet the goals of the organization.The CIO should supervise the three main functions of ICT:

  • Design
  • Build
  • Run

In time, some of these functions have moved outside the organization. The typical example is given by “Run” that is operating the applications in a data center or server room. Outsourcing and Cloud Computing are moving more and more this function to third parties.

Similarly also Build has become less important in the role of the CIO, due to the increasing use of software packages and to SaaS (Software as a Service).

In this situation, it would have been essential for the CIO to change from Chief Information Officer to Chief Innovation Officer. Actually, being in a central position, the CIO is best positioned in optimizing processes.

Unfortunately, many CIO have clinked to their technological role. The result has been that new functions have been born, in most cases outside the ICT department and hence not dependent hierarchically from the CIO.

These functions are closely related to two main interesting development of ICT:

  • The recognition of the importance of the data as an asset for the Organization;
  • The pervasive role of technology, which is present more and more in all the functions of the organizations.

Both functions are designated as the CDO, but with different meaning of the “D”:

  1. Chief Data Officer
  2. Chief Digital Officer

The Chief Data Officer

The Chief Data Officer title shares its acronym with the Chief Digital Officer but the two are not the same job. The Chief Data Officer has a significant measure of business responsibility for determining what kinds of information the enterprise will need to define, capture, retain, and exploit and for what purposes. The Chief Information Officer often is responsible for the information and communication systems through which data is stored, processed, and transmitted. S/he works in close relationships with data owner, which s/he contributes to define and support.

In the last few years, organizations are recognizing more and more the importance of the data as an asset of the organization.Over time, organizations have recognized the importance of information technology as well as business intelligence, data integration, master data management, and data processing to the basic functioning of everyday business. The consequence is that the role of a person (or a team) in charge of the management and governance of the data has become more visible and crucial. This role includes defining strategic priorities for the organization in the area of data systems, identifying new business opportunities connected with the use of data, optimizing revenue generation through data, and generally representing data as a strategic business asset at all levels of the organization.

With the rise in service-oriented architectures (SOA), large-scale system integration, and heterogeneous data storage/exchange mechanisms (engineered systems, databases, XML, EDI, etc.), it is necessary to have a high-level individual, who possesses a combination of business knowledge, technical skills, and people skills, guide data strategy. Besides the revenue opportunities, acquisition strategy, and customer data policies, the Chief Data Officer has the task of explaining the strategic value of data. This contrasts with the older view of data systems as mere back-end ICT systems (from the systems of records to the systems of actions).

More recently, with the adoption of data science the Chief Data Officer is sometimes looked upon as the key strategy person sometimes reporting to the Chief Marketing Officer, due to the importance of the data for commercial and operational reasons, or to the Chief Operation Officer rather than to the Chief Information Officer. This role is introduced and is increasing in importance in in organizations like Santander, Chartis, AllState and Fidelity

The Chief Digital Officer

A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is an individual who helps a organization or a public office to drive growth by converting traditional “analog” businesses to digital ones. S/he must identify, develop, and manager operations in the rapidly changing digital sectors like mobile applications, social media and related applications, virtual goods, as well as innovative web-based information management and marketing.

The responsibilities of an organization’s Chief Digital Officer are varied and still evolving. The Chief Digital Officer is not only a digital expert, but also an experienced manager. As the role frequently is transformational, Chief Digital Officers generally are responsible for the adoption of digital technologies across the entire business. The Chief Digital Officer is responsible not just for digital usage across all business touch points, but also for the whole process of digital transformation.

The Chief Digital Officer’s responsibilities are to devise and execute social strategies that support e-commerce, grow brand loyalty, and advocacy on social networks by:

  • Determining who and where the influencers are
  • Empowering the influencers with tools to drive the message and brand across the community
  • Listening to the community, engaging in bi-directional dialogue with customers

According to a study by Gartner, a predicted 25% of businesses will have created and filled the Chief Digital Officer title by 2015.

The e-Leadership and the Digital Competencies

What will be the future of all these three C’s (Chief Information Officer, Chief Data Officer; Chief Digital Officer). Our prediction is that in time all these three functions will change radically.

The CIO will become more and more a support leader rather than a service leader. This transformation is similar to what has happened to other functions such as HR or Quality. The managers in charge of these functions do not actually manage human resources or the quality of the products or processes. They support all the other functions in managing people and quality. In other words, we expect that ICT will become more and more pervasive not only in the products and processes, but also in the organizations and even in the Business Models. The prerequisite is that all the leaders in the organizations (be them in charge of marketing, production, commerce, administration, and so on) will become e-leader.

An e-leader has digital competencies. All Leaders in the organization now and in the future need Digital Competencies.

  • Digital competence relates to the development of technology as well as the political aims and expectations for leaders in a knowledge society.
  • It consists of a variety of skills and competences, and has a wide scope covering: media and communication, technology, literacy, and information science.

Digital competence consists of:

  1. Capabilities to critically evaluate digital technologies and sell them to the organization
  2. Technical skills to make the best use of digital technologies
  3. Abilities to use digital technologies in a meaningful way for working, managing and for various activities in everyday organization life, but especially to manage the transformation of the organization to customer, technology, or design-driven innovation
  4. Motivation to participate and share the digital culture

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