How can CIOs create business value?

Who knew that the value of a cell phone will depend on the apps that it can support; and shoes will have integrated censors to enhance user experience?  Trends such as social media, mobility, analytics and cloud can not only disrupt your business models but transform the inter-relationship of IT and end-users.  Such changes in the marketplace require CIOs to take on a more strategic role to deliver value.

To create operational efficiencies, CIOs need to apprehend three major factors:

  • How sales are generated
  • How marketing is conducted, and
  • How operations function to better incorporate technology in the system

The value-creating CIORecent EY research suggests that around two-thirds of CIOs are satisfied with their role. However, there is another 31% that is aspiring to have greater influence over the rest of the business. This is particularly true for IT, telecommunication,    media and entertainment, retail, banking, and life sciences sectors that typically have high IT spend to total revenue ratio.

Playing the role of technology visionary

Businesses are changing at an unprecedented pace,CIOs must pre-empt the technological implications of these changes      to stay ahead of the market. In this context, they must prepare their organizations for the imminent 4G era.

The use of 4G technologies will enable reliable access to bandwidth-intensive applications such as videoconferencing, live TV, and graphical presentations. It will also set the table for wide area radio frequency identification (RFID) for asset tracking and monitoring; and for telemetry for data collection from remote locations. CIOs should start building their capabilities such as supporting infrastructure and in-house expertise required for 4G technologies. But at the same time, organizations must also give specific attention to security of corporate information.

Moreover, nowadays, executives in different units are making their own IT decisions. This varied investment is creating discrete silos of information. CIOs need to integrate the varied IT elements and align them with the business strategy. This can also be facilitated by collaboration tools such as Open application programming interface (API) and networking tools such as yammer and chatter.

Software developers are now adding collaboration capabilities in their existing applications.

Taking on the role of Chief Innovation Officer

Several CIOs are still merely technologists at heart. They must evolve more than that to stay in the competition. This will require them to become chief innovation officers, develop a balanced set of skills and stronger business acumen. With their wide knowledge of enabling platforms, CIOs have the unique ability to enhance innovation capacity of their organizations. They can also foster innovation by exploring new technologies and applying them for improving existing processes and addressing changing consumer needs.

In fact, CIOs need to shift focus from a ‘learn and adopt’ approach to ‘adopt and learn’ approach. It is by adoption of a technology that they can truly understand its relevance for the organization­­ and overcome loopholes, if any.

Embracing the digital platform

Social media, mobility, big data analytics and cloud (SMAC) are transforming the way the businesses function. Smart consumers are demanding intelligent products, technology adoption lifecycles are shrinking and workforce is becoming more mobile. CIOs are expected to leverage this digital platform to reach a wider audience, discover additional revenue streams, enhance the brand value and map customer perceptions. They can also use it to make the value vs. volume choice.

One such example is of Tata Sky, Indian Direct-to-Home (DTH) television service provider. It launched the mobile application ‘everywhere TV in 2013, which allows subscribers to access TV service on smartphones and tablets. In 2014, it extended the application to laptops and desktops as well. This helped the company maximise its revenue by reaching new market segments such as frequent travellers and students who prefer economical options for live TV. The application has been well received, with more than 1.2 million downloads so far.


India’s enterprise mobile workforce is set to grow to 205 million by 2015, owing to the growing proliferation of mobile devices. This has brought to the fore the culture of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Bring Your Devices (BYOD). These enable continuous access to company network and data from remote work locations or through personal applications. These can significantly raise productivity but has its own challenges and risks pertaining to data security, privacy, and collaboration issues. To tackle these, CIOs should create the right infrastructure to support mobility, and implement security tools such as mobile data management (MDM), and mobile content management (MCM).

Making the most of big data

CIOs who master big data and predictive analytics can deliver competitive advantage to their businesses. Companies can use analytics to better understand consumer preferences and behaviors. For instance, a television series focused on social issues in India used big data to plan future episodes basis user ratings. Data collected from Facebook, Twitter, websites, SMS polls and phone voice messages was evaluated to determine what content people prefer.

However, big data comes with its own set of legal, reputational and regulatory risks.  The biggest challenge is the protection of personal data. CIOs must employ a special chief privacy officer to mitigate big data risks. CIOs should also instil a data-centric culture in the organization and build in-house capabilities for managing big data and analytics. Also, they should identify the most relevant sources of data to save on time, effort and cost.

 Deriving value from the adoption of cloud

Physical boundaries of companies are disappearing and more and more data is now transmitted over the internet. Cloud offers a flexible, pay-as-you-use business model by facilitating infrastructure as service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Yet, there are many who fear cloud-based services either due to security or privacy concerns or due to operational challenges. Companies need to develop a holistic cloud strategy involving stakeholders from both business and IT personnel. This would mean putting proper checks in place to ensure cost effectiveness of the cloud investment.

Besides, CIOs should get involved in various aspects of cloud services, such as contract negotiations and licensing agreement and setting performance indicators for vendors.  An important step in cloud journey is to make the company IT infrastructure support virtualization. The company should have in place an efficient legal and operations team to quickly establish and dissolve agreements and partnerships; and to manage relationships involving cross-company business processes.

CIOs now need to focus on how technology adoption can be leveraged to maximize sales. This requires greater alignment of the IT function with the overall business, as well as a new image for IT in the minds of C-suite.

CIOs are now required to take up the role of a technology visionary for the organization.  They are also expected to loosen control and become innovation protagonists. Moreover, social media, mobility, cloud computing, and big data are paradigm changes that CIOs cannot choose to ignore. To create value, they need to build capabilities to get the most out of these new opportunities.  Thus, It is time that CIOs move toward the strategic role of a trusted business advisor to their organizations.


4 thoughts on “How can CIOs create business value?

  1. Thanks Jatinder for your valuable opinion. It is imperative for organisations to impart quality technology training to their resources for driving efficient results.

  2. Another important role that CIO has to play is related to Change Management. CIO along with the IT People in the organization, have to act as change agents for creating a sensation in the organization about the transformation that is expected in the planned timeframe. CIO has to ensure that there is a positive sentiment amongst the Business People and the new technology / process is adopted with an open mind. Without winning the trust and confidence of Business People, CIO cannot convert his/her dreams into reality. The real business value can be assessed only if the new technology is embraced by the Business People and they are able to use it to generate measurable business value.

  3. With the advent of technology which drives almost all decision making, role of CIO cannot be overemphasized. He becomes the Catalyst for adopting best practices . Enormous amount of data can be sifted and correlated only with the help of technology. But as you have rightly observed, IT people need to change their mindset and evolve into business oriented people. Ability to spot opportunities, seize them and use them for business through technology is what matters ans sets apart a CIO

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