I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with IDG’s Rob O’Reegan and Isaac Sacolick, President of Star CIO, to discuss the CIO’s strategic mandate and how they can create a more connected, engaging and agile organization.

Sacolick, Author of Driving Digital, is ranked as a Top 100 Social CIO by Huffpost and Forbes. He has a close eye on the evolving role of the CIO and how they can help to drive digital transformation.

Read on below for the highlights from the webinar, including what’s expected from a modern CIO. There’s also a taster of how they can unite the Business and IT divisions of the business, create a connected customer experience and the importance of contextualization.

 

What’s expected from today’s CIO

CIOs have long struggled to balance functional responsibilities with a more strategic approach to IT. They are in the midst of Digital Transformation, but 73% of CIOs say it’s challenging to find the balance between business innovation and operational excellence.

“The history of the CIO role is keeping the lights on,” said Sacolick. Traditionally they would be keeping data centers running and operating ERPs in back office systems. But now digital and technology is something that can drive competitive advantage and experiences.”

The CIO today is focused on business strategy, the creation of revenue and engaging with customers in new ways. These are things CIOs didn’t do five years ago, or even two years ago.

“One of the things I tell organizations is, think through what your business needs to look like in three to five years. Think what the competitive landscape looks like today, what start-ups are doing in your space and brainstorming sessions for what your strategies need to be,” advised Sacolick.

CIO agile organization connected engaging

There are three key challenges that CIOs are facing:

  • The need to move faster and be more responsive (both internally and externally)
  • Being asked to do more with existing legacy systems and embrace new tech
  • Engage with customers in a different way – help develop strategies to better get products and services to the customer

In the webinar, we went on to discuss how CIOs can approach these challenges and succeed.

 

An agile way of working

The whole concept of business agility goes beyond skillset. Most businesses have functional silos between Business and IT departments, so are not set up to be agile organization. But they need to support and facilitate each other – this may require a cultural change. 

We discussed how the concept of agility is more than agile development projects – it’s about an agile way of working.

“Things change during the course of the project. The end-to-end project requires experimentation and change management, requires us to take feedback during the project and pivot what we’re doing,” said Sacolick.

“We’ve got to get teams to think together, that takes an agile way of operating. That means collaborative teams, measuring input and output of short cycles. It means being able to show progress and response every couple of weeks. It takes Business and IT people working together – that’s why I call it enterprise agility. We talk about scaling it globally, it’s not just working in one location.”

 

A connected customer experience

Customer experience is a key differentiator between leaders in a competitive business field. So, CIOs need to ensure that they deliver the best experience possible.

What the customer sees is a manifestation of everything beneath the covers. Connectedness is important – how do you get information in different systems to flow together in a seamless way so that you have one view of the customer?

Sacolick stresses that it’s also about the entire ecosystem: New services to connect to. Building and connecting to APIs. He’s absolutely right. Incorporating new technology such as AI, RPA, machine learning IoT.

If it’s not meshed together in the right way, in a virtualized way, it’s not information – it’s disparate data. It’s more important than ever to orchestrate your data. This is something that CIOs struggle with, so they need to consider the underlying data model and the overall user experience.

CIO digital transformation connected

 

Engaging with customers in real-time

Speaking of the overall user experience… Everybody expects information at their fingertips today and expect companies to know their preference and what they want. Real-time contextualization is the new norm in customer engagement. So you need to get the connected ecosystem in place, to present this to the end user and give them what they want.

Think of Uber: every time you pull up the app, it knows where you are and how you’re going to pay. And the circumstances aren’t always the same – you may be alone or with a group of people for your ride. It doesn’t matter. It’s about contextualized information. The customer sees what they need to see and does the minimal amount to interact with it.

The CIO must have the idea of engaging customers differently and easily. “So much of that goes into ease of use. We have a very low tolerance for doing things slowly or multi-step processes as a consumer,” added Sacolick

“It’s not just about getting the app out, it’s about taking context, taking history and using algorithms, whether they’re AI or just general algorithms, to help present information and make it easier for me to do something I need to do now. And so much of that gets into how we have to think about the technology.”

 

Be the agent for change

It’s clear that the modern CIO has a lot on their plate, and it’s always a moving goal. Sacolick advises, “Get out of your comfort zone.” There are always new challenges, so you need to be thinking ahead and learning about new strategies to tackle those challenges.

This world is different today. CIOs need to think through their charters and look at the charter differently: be focused on business strategy and being a transformation agent for your company. The digitally born competitors are disrupting every single industry, so the sooner you embrace digital transformation, the better.

If you’d like to find out more, watch the full discussion: The CIO’s Strategic Mandate, Enabling an Agile, Connected and Engaging Organization to Drive Digital Transformation.