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

Sanjay Srivastava

Chief Digital Strategist



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.

In partnership with the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, we delved even deeper into the role with Genpact's CIO studyPilots, co-pilots, and engineers: digital transformation insights from CIOs for CIOs. We surveyed 500 CIOs to explore how they approach digital transformation.

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.

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. Pilots are the CIOs best placed to initiate investment in emerging technologies like generative AI to secure a headstart over their competitors.

However, most CIOs (61%) are co-pilots who collaborate with business leaders to shape and deliver transformation. The other 17% are engineers, who mainly take direction but keep the business transformation on course.

Becoming data-driven

Across our pilots and 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 to 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 manage data effectively, enhance cloud infrastructure, develop advanced analytics, or harness generative AI, technology is only one part of the job description.

CIOs must orchestrate and streamline 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 in customer experience (CX). Accountability for CX is something 40% of our 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 in 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. CIOs are no longer solely focused on keeping the lights on. The leading CIOs must connect their work to measurable business impact.

This means 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, 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.

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