The chief information officer (CIO) is instrumental in helping companies use technology well and achieve stated goals. However, the role of the CIO is becoming significantly different than it once was. Artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation are two of the primary reasons for the evolving nature of the position.
The CIO is typically the executive who gets other C-suite personnel on board with investing in new technologies. They are also usually the one who builds and operates new digital platforms that bring transformative results. That was a finding from a 2023 Logicalis survey where 57% of respondents viewed those duties as central to their roles.
CIOs also go beyond implementing technologies at their respective companies. They investigate how the chosen solutions could open new revenue streams and business models.
However, research elsewhere shows CIOs sacrifice to ensure their digital transformations happen fast enough. Global data published in 2023 by Dynatrace indicated these changes had accelerated at 90% of the organisations polled.
However, 55% of respondents indicated they could only meet the demand for rapid transformation by making quality, security and user experience tradeoffs. That suggests the role of the CIO requires working hard to strike a balance between aggressive technological advancement and maintaining the company’s reputation.
Companies that pursue AI and other technologies within digital transformations typically collect and utilise gigantic amounts of data. A 2022 MIT Technology Review Insights report highlighted how data management is a critical aspect — especially for the success of AI-driven initiatives.
The global survey of C-suite executives found that more than half of respondents expect AI to be widespread or critical for several key business functions by 2025. Moreover, 94% of those polled already use AI in their businesses.
Another important takeaway was that 72% of respondents feel data management issues will restrict what organisations can achieve with AI in the future. Additionally, 78% of participants prioritised AI and machine learning scalability over the next three years for their enterprise-level data strategies.
These findings are strong reminders that today’s CIOs must be ready and willing to devote significant parts of their workday to data management. That might mean working with existing data scientists at the company or exploring whether it’s time to hire new team members in that department. Even if information management is not the CIO’s sole responsibility, it’s becoming more prominent. Fortunately, AI algorithms can reduce wasted resources by automating many steps.
Statistics show digital transformation as critical for business growth by 60% of senior-level executives. However, sometimes external factors push those leaders to focus on digital transformation efforts sooner than they otherwise might.
IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) researchers discovered that the COVID-19 pandemic was a primary driver in such technological adoption. About 60% of organisations sped up their technology implementations due to the health crisis.
The transition to greater tech usage started a bit earlier, though. The IBV’s data revealed a 560% increase in intelligent workflows since 2019.
Relatedly, there has been a 700% rise in CIOs reporting using hybrid cloud technologies since that year. However, the desired business resilience is much more likely to occur when CIOs investigate how to use cloud computing securely.
One issue found by the IBV report was that 92% of organisations could not securely enable and provide new cloud-native capabilities to internal and external partners. However, a security-centric focus pays off. Companies with integrated cloud and security strategies achieve two times the performance of peers without them.
These conclusions reveal how the role of the CIO involves carefully considering all factors that could influence the overall success of a project. Using AI or similar technology as part of a digital transformation is a great start, and the cloud can maximise efforts. However, security must remain foundational, especially since cyberattacks are increasingly elaborate and devastating.
A 2022 Lenovo study emphasised that the role of the CIO is much broader than it once was. Nine in 10 respondents admitted their business decisions go beyond technology. Even so, these executives are the primary parties deciding when to buy new tech and what to purchase.
However, Lenovo’s research showed lots of room for improvement in existing tech stacks. In fact, 57% of CIOs said they’d like to replace at least half of their current ones, and 21% said they’d like to do that with almost everything they use now.
Moreover, the as-a-service model will likely play a significant role in enabling those investments. That’s because 63% of respondents said they were already using more technologies through that approach than the previous year’s data showed. Additionally, 92% of CIOs said they’d consider using as-a-service products to fill technology gaps.
This is an appealing way to implement artificial intelligence, which many companies are using for the first time. The as-a-service model typically makes tech investments more affordable, which can appeal to people who’d rather restrict their spending until they see notable payoffs.
These examples show that digital transformation and AI are driving the changing role of the CIO. However, other technologies may reshape this executive’s duties in the next several years. The CIO must work in a rapidly changing landscape, which means accepting that the job’s characteristics may shift, too.
Emily Newton is a tech journalist with over six years of experience covering how advanced technology impacts different industries. She regularly covers technology’s impact on manufacturing and the supply chain.