Information technology has brought about a sea change in how companies do business, and the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) has evolved as a result. Today’s CIOs need to operate effectively in an environment where technical skills may only be as important as the soft skills which supplement them, and where those technical skills may be changing from day to day.
Here are six of the new challenges faced by today’s CIO:
Customers want relationships, not commodities.
With the advent of social media, customers crave, more and more, the ability to see the companies they do business with as personalities more than commodities. Companies with responsive, personable presences on Twitter, Facebook, and other sites build brand loyalty, whereas companies that are unreachable or present a bureaucratic public face put modern customers off. Even marketing faux pas and security missteps can be mitigated in the customers’ eyes by a personal response. Today’s CIO needs to be aware of the social presence of the company, and prioritize making that presence more responsive and effective.
Companies need to find the signal in the new technology noise.
The technology field is bursting with new sites, new devices, new tools, new technologies, and new paradigms. But while some of those new things may rise to infrastructure-like importance, many others will fade quietly away. Discerning between a new technology that can boost organizational effectiveness and an alluring-but-transient new tool is one of the challenges facing today’s CIO.
Customers hunger for information.
In the age of Google, customers feel empowered to make purchasing decisions. Whether they do this through reading FAQs and white papers on a company’s offerings or customer reviews on an ecommerce site, a CIO needs to understand how customers search for information, and how their questions are answered. The company then needs to be positioned inside those information streams to ensure that there’s no information vacuum.
Services are moving to the cloud.
From project management to customer feedback, more and more of a company’s traditionally internal processes are moving onto cloud-based technologies. This means that a CIO’s typical duties may touch upon a number of third-party technologies, and a deep understanding of how these services operate is key. Furthermore, a CIO needs to understand how each of these services is used from an organizational effectiveness standpoint, and understand the costs and benefits of introducing new services or changing the focus on ones already in use.
Technical employees need more than just technical skills.
As the CIO’s role expands, so to do the roles of technical employees down the chain. Technical employees need a bigger-picture awareness than just the hard skills needed by their immediate job duties, and a CIO has to balance the pros and cons of hiring well-rounded candidates, investing in training for current employees, and supplementing the company’s talent pool with outsourced employees or contract workers.
The financial algebra is always changing.
CIOs have to keep in mind that everything they do affects the bottom line, for better or worse. Is an increase in efficiency worth ongoing maintenance costs? Is opening up a new avenue for customer interaction going to pay off in customer longevity and word-of-mouth recommendations? Strong financial sense and risk management are becoming more important for modern CIOs.
In summary, the modern CIO needs many big-picture business skills to keep up with today’s evolving market.