The dual roles of the CIO in the digital age

The CIO’s kingdom is diverse and continually evolving.
The CIO’s kingdom is diverse and continually evolving.
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“The number of mobile devices and wireless connections in 2013 grew to 7 billion globally, an increase of 500 million in one year.”

Enterprises spent over $30 billion globally on data technology and services in 2013.”

Advertisers increased spending on social media advertising by 60 percent between 2011 and 2013.”

Facts such as these are evidence of the rapidly rising adoption of digital technologies.

While the media, marketing, and retail sectors were first to adopt digitization, other sectors quickly followed, capitalizing on the ongoing decline in the prices of connectivity and computing power. For instance, the digital oil field employs analytics and mobile devices to make exploration and production more productive, and financial services firms are reducing costs and improving risk management by digitizing processes from end to end.

What does this trend mean for today’s CIO? Increasing spending on cloud, analytics, and mobile offers CIOs the opportunity to help drive strategy, innovation, and revenue growth. The challenge lies in building and integrating technology systems that are also reliable and secure. The CIO must now play a dual role: builder of technology and builder of the business.

In response to these new demands, CIOs are moving from their traditional roles of developing and deploying software and managing operations to advising and guiding business leaders, shaping strategy, and improving customer experience. The CIO of Coca-Cola Company, for instance, aspires to be a “revenue-generator CIO.” At Dell, the IT and marketing organizations share a team that reports to both the CMO and the CIO.

While digital technologies are creating new expectations of CIOs, these technologies also create new problems. The traditional IT concerns of application integration, performance, cost management, and security now require new approaches. Digitization creates political and organizational challenges such as dealing with an expanded role and relationships; scaling up legacy IT infrastructures; deciding which architecture to adopt and how to integrate new systems with legacy ones; performance management; cost management; and coping with a skill shortage.

As not all CIOs are able to or aspire to play the role of builder of the business, some firms are exploring a separate position—the Chief Digital Officer—that entails defining and executing a growth-oriented digital strategy. But as more businesses become digital, the CIO and CDO roles may be more likely to merge. One potential key to the effective fulfillment of a CIO’s role lies in coupling vision, creativity, and political sensitivity with an ability to navigate a rapidly changing technology landscape.

Learn more about the dual roles of the CIO.

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This article was written by Deloitte and not by the Quartz editorial staff.