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The evolving CIO: From running operations to co-creating new business models

From working with leading chief information officers (CIOs), my team and I have gained countless insights into their roles. In recent years, we've witnessed its rapid evolution and expansion within a changeable business and technology landscape.

Now, in partnership with the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Genpact has delved even deeper into the role with a new study – Pilots, co-pilots, and engineers: digital transformation insights from CIOs for CIOs. We surveyed 500 CIOs to explore how they approach digital transformation. If you prefer something more interactive, take a look at this digital experience based on the report findings.

The CIO as pilot, co-pilot, or engineer

Despite accelerated investment in digital transformation, more than two-thirds (68%) of CIOs believe their CIO organization is not completely prepared to help their companies withstand another major business disruption. And only 44% agree strongly that they are well-positioned to support company growth after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within this, there are three distinct CIO groups: pilots, co-pilots, and engineers. Each has varying levels of influence over the business and technology strategy.

Pilots (22%) are leading the way – they actively drive transformation across core business functions. Most CIOs (61%) are co-pilots who collaborate with business leaders to shape and deliver transformation. And the other 17% are engineers, who mainly take direction but keep the business transformation on course.

Becoming data-driven

Though these transformation pilots are at the top of their game, when combined with co-pilots we see 83% of CIOs taking on a more strategic role in digital transformation. So, how can more CIOs get into the pilot's seat? It begins with influence, especially over the CEO. Our study shows that many CIOs either report into the CEO or meet with them often to drive strategic change.

This relationship underpins a CIO's ability to create a data-driven organization. In fact, 98% of CIOs agree that their companies make data-driven decisions to realize business value, while 82% agree that their CIO organization is building a company culture of data-driven decision-making.

The need to become data-driven sees 43% of CIOs upskilling employees to increase data literacy – with pilots more likely to do this compared to co-pilots and engineers.

Clearly, many CIOs are no longer solely focused on operations. Though it's vital to be able to set up a data lake, rig cloud infrastructure, develop advanced analytics, or harness AI to drive value, technology is only one part of the job description.

CIOs must orchestrate change across four areas – people, processes, data, and technology – to create new business models.

Connecting employees and customers

Nowhere is the connection between people, processes, data, and technology more obvious than the enhancement and development of customer experience (CX). Accountability for CX is something 40% of transformation pilots believe their CIO organization is responsible for, compared to just 22% of engineers.

In fact, CIOs are uniquely positioned to connect CX and employee experience technologies. Only when employees are digitally enabled can they deliver the experiences customers expect.

Despite this, many CIOs are still overlooking the role of HR for successful transformation. It ranked last among the functional areas prioritized for full-stack technology investment over the next two years. Unfortunately, this could lead to a disconnect as businesses continue to work remotely or implement a blend of remote and office-based practices.

Looking to the future

Thankfully, the role of the CIO today is a far cry from what it was when the role was first established. With the rise of cloud – something all CIOs plan to focus on in the next 12 months – and other emerging tools of the trade, CIOs must connect their work to business impact.

Business and technology strategies are no longer separate entities, they are one and the same. CIOs play a crucial role in developing this strategy – in partnership with the CEO – to effectively seize the digital transformation opportunity.

There are many other areas of Genpact's CIO study I could explore – and I talk through some of them in this video – but I encourage you to read the report for yourself. You will discover industry- and country-specific insights, as well as checklists, to help more CIOs take the pilot's seat. Remember, CIOs that move quickly will be the ones with the most to gain.

Visit our latest CIO study