3 priorities for modern CIOs

Chief information officers are playing a more strategic role in the modern enterprise, according to new research from ServiceNow

modern CIO priorities
  • Nearly two-thirds of CIOs say business and leadership skills matter more than tech skills
  • The most successful CIOs are those who furthest along in digitizing workflows
  • Digitizing workflows helps increase operational efficiency and speed to market

Times have changed. CIOs today are becoming primary transformation leaders according to a new survey of 516 CIOs from 12 countries and 24 industries, conducted by Oxford Economics and commissioned by ServiceNow. In fact, nearly two-thirds of CIOs (63%) say business and leadership skills matter more than technology skills.

Three characteristics separate the roughly 20% of CIOs that consider themselves effective across the most important CIO capabilities from the rest: 1) they are further along at digitizing workflows, 2) they build C-suite influence, and 3) they focus externally on customers.

The research findings appear in the latest edition of Workflow Quarterly, a ServiceNow publication that presents in-depth research and analysis of how emerging digital technologies are changing how companies operate and go to market.

Based on our research, here are three key lessons for modern CIOs.

Digitize workflows

As technology becomes critical to business success, expectations of the CIO have grown exponentially. To keep pace, the most successful CIOs see workflow digitization as important to advancing their organizations’ efficiency (80%), financial performance (78%), productivity (77%), employee performance (76%), collaboration (76%), and innovation (75%).

Today’s most successful CIOs are thought leaders and innovators, culture breakers and collaborators.

The most successful CIOs are those who are further along at digitizing workflows or drawing on those business skills to build consensus and action around automating and integrating work processes through advanced technology.

Partner with the C-suite

Our research found that the highest-performing CIOs collaborate with the C-suite to drive better business results.

CEOs are looking to their CIOs to be part of a transformational team to change the entire culture of the company, to change the business model, to change the operating model to leverage emerging technologies that create business outcomes that matter to the CEO.

In fact, 93% of CIOs who are most advanced at digitizing workflows say that their organizations are effective at increasing communication between IT and the workforce about business-process changes. Only 38% of the least advanced companies agree.

Of all the CIOs surveyed, 77% say that core CIO responsibilities include collaborating with the chief human resources officer on talent strategies. Another 69% say their responsibilities include collaborating with the CEO on setting organizational roadmaps.

Focus on customer outcomes

Nearly every innovative thing companies want to do today, from social, mobile, big data, machine learning, and more, goes through the CIO. This translates into the CIO playing a more critical role in the customer experience.

For example, CIOs who lead organizations with the most workflow digitization are more likely than the ones that are the least digitized to be highly successful at increasing operational efficiency and speed to market (48% versus 32%), developing new products and services (46% versus 24%), and attracting new customers (45% versus 24%).

[Read more about the common traits of the world’s top innovators in Mastercard’s new innovation report]

Today’s most successful information chiefs are thought leaders and innovators, culture breakers, and collaborators. They’re less focused on back-end technology and more on the goals of customers, employees, board members, and shareholders.

That’s a lot of stakeholders, which means a lot of pressure on CIOs to deliver meaningful business results. But if the pressure is enormous, so too is the opportunity. We are tasked with applying tech skills and strategic vision to transform how our companies operate and go to market. The way I see it, there has never been a better time to be a CIO. Now, the trick is getting it all done.