Digital technology has brought about rapid changes in the role of internal IT—its shape, its structure, its processes—and in the role of CIOs who lead these organizations. Today’s CIOs are looking hard at how they must reinvent themselves in an age of digital provisioning and operation. The range and extent of technology that a CIO is responsible for—directly or indirectly—such as cloud and managed services, has changed the nature of the role significantly. CIOs no longer just take IT orders for the business; they and their IT organizations are increasingly looked to as a source of innovation and business value that can help drive the business overall.
Drawing from my experience in driving Accenture’s digital transformation, there are numerous ways I have restructured my approach to leading our IT organization in this constantly evolving digital landscape:
Look outside your walls
One of the biggest shifts CIOs need to think about is that they no longer possess all the skills, resources and services they need to do their job. It has become necessary to look to an ecosystem of technology providers, from software-as-a-service through all of the provisioning in cloud and all of the rapidly developing technologies that are increasing demanded in the enterprise. A CIO’s role is increasingly about fostering relationships and the ability to source, navigate, choose, coach, encourage, and mature a company’s ecosystem of providers. CIOs need to be able to encompass that and think in terms of how and where to assess the maturity of service capabilities.
Get a seat at the grown-up table
One shift underway within IT organizations is a move away from being a service provider for the business to an orchestrator of a whole new supply chain of technology providers, and a consultant to the business on innovative digital strategies and solutions. IT is not a function that waits for the business to make demands, but rather a collaborator sitting at the table with the business to help it achieve its goals. Today’s CIO should be the first to say, “technology can do this for the business.” In my role as CIO, I think about how we embed digital into every fiber of the organization, from business processes to workforces, to collaboration and communication capabilities, and sometimes in ways the business does not yet realize it needs.
Stay ahead of the business
All the while today’s CIOs need to keep up with—or even stay ahead of—the rapidly changing nature of the business. For example, in my world, Accenture is no longer a single homogenous entity. It is now a number of different businesses that collectively need to be very nimble. As a result, collaboration tools became very important. It is very possible that your organization is likewise going through a similar evolution. Perhaps your company operates in every time zone continuously, as well, and where much more work is done through virtual enablement and collaborative tools than through physically being together.
An increasingly mobile workforce needs increasingly sophisticated tools, and that demand profile is very different from the more traditional one. Catering to millennial and digital native workforces has also increased the pace at which new IT approaches become necessary.
Be agile, be relevant
Business today are dependent on technology for their success. And that technology needs to be relevant. That means internal IT needs to be agile and willing to fail fast. This way of working can involve gathering feedback, re-tooling, and reporting on wins. CIOs need to be willing to place a few bets—identify which enabler, platform, or next idea is worth the investment cycle. The organization can then go at a quick enough pace to be relevant to the business, but can also deliver at scale, if that is the case. It is also important to think about change management and implementation approaches that are also more relevant than in the past. To be successful in the enterprise, the CIO needs to get business value realization processes, approaches, and tools very, very right and very, very effective.
My takeaways for CIOs
Drawing on where I started and where I am today, my takeaways for reinventing your role as a CIO are:
- Be opinionated, disruptive, and a source of innovation.
- Stay aware, stay current, stay focused, and know your client.
- Don’t end up being too much in a silo, too associated with one platform or one agenda.
- Think laterally about the changes that the business is undertaking, think laterally about how your role can develop.
There’s never been a better time to be in IT, serving as consultants to the business and guiding the organization through more technology disruption and opportunities than ever before.
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As chief information officer for Accenture, Andrew Wilson leads the global IT operations and drives the digital agenda of a $34.9 billion company, including the infrastructure, services and applications that enable Accenture people to work anytime, anywhere to serve clients in more than 120 countries.
Mr. Wilson ensures that Accenture is at the forefront of innovation as a digital business—from mission-critical applications to the network, from e-mail and laptops to enterprise social media and collaboration tools. He also leads CIO Ecosystem Products and Services, and in this capacity, is responsible for Accenture's buy-side relationships with strategic suppliers as well as supplier management services delivered to clients. Mr. Wilson serves as Accenture’s Global LGBT Network Sponsor.