CIO Directions for 2016 and Beyond

CIO DirectionsOver the last few weeks, I have been asking CIOs in the #CIOChat about their thoughts for 2016. CIOs’ answers fit into two buckets. First was regarding the need to change IT and the second was regarding their initiatives for 2016. I found their comments incredibly interesting and worthy of broader consideration—especially because they provide additional color on survey’s such as the one conducted by this CIO Magazine. To be clear, these CIOs are business-oriented and to many respects, in the vanguard of CIO thinking.

Changing IT

The CIO of a major education institution kicked things off for this topic by saying CIOs “should be the change they want to see in their organizations and communities.” Thinking of CIOs as a change agent and change leader is compelling. Another CIO shared that something that can make this happen is when CIOs change the conversation with their CxO peers from a question to a statement. In particular, they felt the conversation should change from how can IT help you to how can IT help the business. Part of doing this well was seen as business enablement via technology and data partnership and collaboration.

Another CIO said that CIOs should lead every discussion with the business’ goals and value. This CIO stressed finding the destination first and avoiding techie speak. Another CIO added to this thought by saying “I would encourage CIOs to challenge themselves and teams in 2016.” This CIO continued by saying “never doubt that a small committed team of IT professionals can change any organization.” Essential to enabling this is “actually walking around the organization and talking to the people in it.” This provides CIOs with an understanding of the needs of all the different units. Tom Peters – prolific business management writer – has labeled this “management by walking around.” The above CIO also felt that CIOs should do the same with customers. “Bet there’ll be an overlap, if it’s not efficient, fix it, and solve bottlenecks for both.”

The CIOs in the chat made two final recommendations. They said CIOs should find a way to change the perception of IT from Cost Center to Innovation Center. They stress here that perception is reality. A final CIO for this topic emphasized the importance of doing four things in 2016:

• Talent acquisition and retention
• Extreme business knowledge
• Customer delight
• Delivery obsessed

Business changing technologies for 2016

The second set of answers in the #CIOChat had to do with the business changing technologies CIOs would be evaluating in 2016. CIOs started this topic—without prompting—by discussing the importance of data. One CIO said data and analytics are going to continue to grow and be key areas for CIO attention in 2016. Another CIO said that tools which provide greater clarity about data are critical this year. A final CIO stated that being able to find the little data jewels in the big data lakes will provide real business value. Responding to this, yet another CIO said that CIOs should invest in understanding the data flows within their organization and with their vendors/suppliers. This CIO believed that data flow mapping will become more important with the implementation of the EU Data Protection regulations.

From here, CIO answers diverged. One CIO highlighted Citizen Developments and mobile development platforms. This CIO wants to look for opportunities to leverage business unit techies and push citizen development and more self-service.

Not unexpectedly, another CIO said that enterprises need to get serious about moving their legacy applications into variations of hybrid cloud. This CIO also felt that Cloud Data Analytics were needed to support ever-changing business capabilities and opportunities. For one CIO, this also meant the CIOs needed to start to pivot from “Information Technology” to “Digital Services.”
Final responses included virtual reality for healthcare, world class customer service and use experience, unified communications/team messaging, internal enterprise mobile app development, data security and digitization of processes.

Parting remarks

All of these are interesting insights for everyone involved in the IT ecosystem. It seems clear that getting better tied to the business and then solving business problems is critical. One CIO summarized things nicely by saying that 2016 is the year of data and relevance. I couldn’t agree more.

Note: This post was originally published in ComputerWorld