The changing role of the CIO
Written by Matthew Graham-Hyde, author of The Essential CIO
I don’t think one can underestimate the difficulties that will be encountered when trying to reinvent the role of the CIO. The CIO needs to be a true executive partner to the CEO with a vision and point of view on how to grow the business using new technologies.
Large traditional businesses in particular are set in their ways. They have their internal political clichés, vested interest groups and an ordered world which probably doesn’t see the threat to their business from changes in technology. The technology based new start-up competitors often initially look inferior as they attack the bottom of the value chain.
While I think that there is growing acceptance that the role of the CIO will change over the next two to five years, I haven’t seen evidence that the majority of CIOs want to see themselves as business development officers. Owning or shaping parts, or all of the strategy of the business and be responsible for creating and driving revenue growth opportunities.
But those that do see this as their future role have to recognise, a CIO can’t get there alone. The CIO will need the support of strong relationships with marketing and digital functions, with business leaders across the organisation. Finance and the relationship with the CFO needs to change. Many CFOs I meet are sceptical about technology and technology investment. Changing their view will be a key area to enable change.
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How does a CIO remove them from the day-to-day service delivery to concentrate on these wider business strategies? The ability to do so will be both critical and immensely difficult. I have yet to achieve this totally myself.
A lot of the changes that are needed will be facilitated by a CIO’s general management skills rather than technology skills. The only person who can lead the transformation of the IT function is the CIO. Some of the fundamentals of that transformation have been set out here.
The challenge for the CIO is to look at IT through a new lens and to combat the internal challenges of their learnt behaviours within IT that have been developed over many years of experience.
To understand where their business and markets are in terms of the impact of new technologies. Then reposition the IT function to get out in front of that change. Ideally leading that change in the business.
Creating a clear vision around IT transformation and developing a culture and skill set around the new disrupting technologies. Develop strategies to change the people skills and financial management of the organisation to create the investment and ability to move into new areas.
One option may be to re-create the IT function as a business, not a popular move in many organisations, but one which if successful, will bring a lot of the transformation threads together. An IT function that can be truly commercial in the way, creates a services approach with a cloud model and the financial levers will create a new dialogue with the rest of your business.
Understanding the detailed financial breakdown of a service based model needs to be the first step. Creating a new financial model that allows you to view and then compare the costs of a service based function with the external IT market, will enable a completely different view and strategy for the IT estate and function.
This moves the IT function away from managing assets, towards managing solutions for the business.
The CIO owns the current technology domain and doesn’t need to ask permission to make such changes. However, it will need good communication to create the understanding and collaboration of the business. The CIO may be surprised to find that with this understanding, a considerable amount of executive support will be readily available for this type of change.
The CIO needs to be a visionary and be able to sell that vision to a sceptical organisation, both within IT and beyond. Create a belief structure that pulls teams together in support of common transformational goals.
The CIO needs to be able to develop client relationships and enhance the products and services of their business in the marketplace, to commercialise the IT function with multi-skilled agile teams, capable of working in many different business situations equally comfortably.
There is a need to run IT like a business, whether or not it becomes a revenue-generating unit. In this way the IT function will develop more understanding of the challenges their colleagues are facing in other areas of the business. This will also create an environment to experiment and develop general management skills.
If the CIO gets up every morning thinking I am the CEO of this IT business, a different set of behaviours will be required and the need to look for different opportunities and outcomes will be generated. This is a critical part of CIO reinvention.
The CIO is not an endangered species and remains a critical role within any business. The challenge is to evolve the role in these revolutionary times, with even greater breadth of leadership responsibilities throughout the businesses.
Most CIOs I know become CIOs because they have a passion for technology and business, and a belief in how technology can help a business perform better when implemented well.
These fundamentals haven’t changed, the role may be transitioning from its traditional model, but the potential for the role has never been greater.
Matt Graham-Hyde, is the CIO of Kantar and has over 15 years’ experience as a CIO in major international businesses. Matt is the author of “The Essential CIO” (£14.99 Panoma Press) which is available from Amazon now!
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.