The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and other disruptive technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) is forcing CIOs to play more centralized roles in their companies than ever before.
In large part due to the increased adoption of disruptive technologies including AI and ML, we are seeing the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) expand rapidly in both scope and prominence. The evidence is clear: CIOs must take on an increasingly central role in their organizations. Here are five ways that technological innovation is changing the role of the CIO.
#1. Almost half of CIOs have developed plans to deploy AI
In the post-war period between the late 1940s and 1950s, managers preferred top-down leadership styles and often paid little attention to the skillsets of employees when making decisions. In part due to the rise of disruptive technologies, businesses have become too complex for any one individual or even a small group of individuals to consistently find the correct answers. As outlined in Gartner's 2018 CIO Agenda Survey, almost half of CIOs (46 percent) have already developed plans to deploy AI-based solutions within their organizations. By gathering data from 3,160 CIO respondents based around the world, Gartner’s survey clearly outlines how technological innovation is changing the nature of the role of the CIO.
#2. Increased responsibility for non-IT business areas
In decades past, CIOs often stubbornly stuck by a course of action even if it conflicted with the best interests of their organizations. That management style, believed to have shown resolute strength and leadership, often proved disastrous and thankfully has been purged from most modern companies. Gartner’s survey shows that ‘at least 84 percent’ of the CIO respondents now have responsibility for non-IT areas of business. The business areas that top this list are transformation and innovation. This shows that few leaders are more willing to adapt to change than CIOs who now must focus more on their performance metrics on business outcomes (revenue growth and business margins) than purely on IT delivery.
#3. Analytics and Business intelligence (BI) are the top differentiation technologies
2018 marked the first time that Gartner’s survey had asked respondents to identify what they believed were ‘differentiating’ technologies. In past surveys, the results showed that many CIO believed the AI revolution was about providing tools to workers or creating a new type of business. This year’s results indicate that Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics are the top differentiating tech areas. Within these areas, Amazon’s data-driven approach to seemingly unrelated business avenues has been a clear inspiration for many CIOs.
The reliance on BI and analytics shows that CIOs are using data to gain greater insights into their organizations than ever before. The role of the CIO is shifting towards a position where they must orchestrate services instead of merely build them. There has been a clear shift in IT organization from manufacturer to buyer and the CIO’s role in this new landscape is to help integrate these services.
#4. Digitized products create cybersecurity challenges to CIOs
The majority of the respondents to Gartner’s survey indicated that they believe cybersecurity will change the way they do their jobs in the near future. Over 95 percent of CIOs surveyed believed that cybersecurity threats will increase over the next year. Therefore, although more than a quarter of CIOs believe that increased use of digitized products will help drive growth, these products will likely bring with them unique cybersecurity challenges that will change the nature of the CIO’s role.
We can expect to see a fundamental shift in the nature of the work carried out by CIOs as digital products are increasingly used to increase revenue, engagement and business value. CIOs must scale these areas economically. This means increasing the scope of customers who used digital products without overspending on cybersecurity.
#5. Preparing for the future
According to a recent CIO article, just 4 percent of CIOs have already implemented AI into their organizations. However, 79 percent of CIOs surveyed by Gartner indicated that they are making their organizations more ‘change-ready’. This means that CIO’s are increasingly preparing for the future and getting ready to use coming technology. As AI and ML-driven solutions gain popularity, CIOs are standing ready to adopt these new technologies. The new normal means ‘constant change’ for many CIOs surveyed. Based on their responses, they predict that just 44 percent of their performance metrics will be based on IT delivery in the coming years. Anecdotally, this outlook reflects the paths taken by technological innovators such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. They didn’t know the exact path that would help them reach their vision but they were ready for change and they embraced it.
Technological innovation is clearly having a profound impact on the role of the CIO. Technologies such as AI and ML are giving them an ever-increasing influence on a company’s direction and growth.