Create Business Value with Technology: Navigating the Path from CIO to a Business Strategist

Feb 26, 2024
Oracle | 7 min READ
As business technology evolves to enable differentiating capabilities across industries, the CIO must become a trusted advisor to the board and take charge of business-led transformation. While enterprise technology standardizes access to innovations in AI and ML, here’s how the CIO can enable their organization to overtake their competition.
Linda O'Donnell
Linda O'Donnell

Vice President - Partner Strategy & Alliances,


The changing role of the CIO
Key technology trends reshaping the role of the CIO
Amidst innovations in business technology, the function of the CIO has evolved significantly beyond enabling the business with IT. Today, the CIO must deliver strategic innovations as the three C’s of the current technology trends reshape the digital economy – i.e., Cloud, Compute, and Communication.
Today, the cloud is being adopted rapidly by businesses of all sizes across industries, and this has turned compute into a resource consumed on a pay-as-you-go basis. Moreover, communication has pivoted itself to the new world of data – which means that businesses now have access to fast, resilient, all-you-can-eat connectivity at affordable prices.
These three C’s of technology trends have also led to a paradigm shift in software architecture. Monolithic applications are now being phased out for modular, microservices-based architectures as the industry moves toward a platform-centric economy. These cloud solutions for enterprises, powered by AI, data analytics, and machine learning, are reshaping the business landscape inside-out, resulting in a shift in customer expectations and competitor dynamics.
Enterprise technology standardizes access to innovations
As innovations unfold in technologies like AI and ML, enterprise technology leaders (Oracle, for instance) are now embedding these technologies directly into the business processes that are enabled by the application. This minimizes the risk associated with piloting new use cases and the difficulty of scaling successful ones. It reduces waste and allows industries to evolve to the cutting edge by making execution easier. However, this also makes such innovations accessible to virtually every competing business, lending a new twist to technology-led differentiation.
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Three key changes in the function of the CIO in the modern organization
These shifts in the business technology landscape have significantly altered the function of the CIO into a more strategic one. Here are a few ways in which their role has evolved:
  • The CIO must enable the business to differentiate itself from the competition with business-led technology transformation.
  • While going to the cloud is a key strategy for differentiating the business, the roadmap of the cloud journey plays a crucial role in getting ahead of the competition.
  • To achieve the above objectives, CIOs now have to build trusted relationships with a more extensive set of stakeholders than ever before.
The CIO must facilitate the board to make intelligent choices about what business problems the organization focuses on and in what order. This also leaves them with the crucial responsibility of ensuring that their organization has the required competencies, capabilities, and agility to solve these problems with technology.
Look at these shifts in the CIO’s role in detail and how the CIO can effectively navigate this transition to a more strategic function in the modern organization.
Forging collaborative relationships with the C-suite
In modern IT, the CIO has an overview of all the functions and can see across the canvas and observe how things are put together. They are more aware of critical problems in each functional area and what these functions need to get ahead.
This positions the CIO to understand the needs of every role in the C-suite, be it the CEO, the COO, or the CFO. In the modern organization, the CIO must establish conducive relationships with the CEO, the COO, and the CFO by understanding their key objectives. This will enable them to become a strategic partner to the C-suite, who can help them figure out how they (and the organization) can achieve their goals with technology.
To this end, building cross-functional teams early on is critical to successful business-led transformation. Moreover, the CIO must have the organization’s risk officer or compliance manager on their side to mitigate risk early on in any initiative.
Optimizing the roadmap of your cloud journey
#1. Define clear requirements, and the rest will fall through
The first step is to involve the business partners, whether they are the supply chain, finance, or sales function. Align the IT teams to sit with the business partners, to help them craft very lucid requirements. For example, if the organization is building a CX platform, the CIO needs to align IT, marketing, operations, and finance teams.
Once these requirements are in place, the next step is to initiate conversations with enterprise technology leaders whose offerings check those boxes. Ideally, the solution should enable 80-90% of the functionality out-of-the-box, while the customizations should be used sparingly, only in cases where they enable the organization to activate differentiating capabilities.
#2. Turn your cloud journey into a self-funding initiative
A cloud and infrastructure modernization initiative will help enterprises lower their technical debt. However, because technology innovations are now available to everyone through leading enterprise technology platforms, the adoption roadmap significantly impacts the transformation outcome. This is a function of how well the roadmap is optimized so that the transformation becomes self-funding early on into the initiative.
#3. Refine your people strategy for the cloud journey
In any transformation initiative, the key question is how it will make the lives of the organization’s teams and their customers easier. This means that the focus should not rest solely on the capabilities that adopting an application will activate but also on the change management requirements that will be introduced as a result. The CIO must devise their cloud journey per their organization’s people strategy. Instead of disrupting business-as-usual, the transformation should be optimized to ensure the organization can pick up the new systems and start running with them.
It is also essential to consider the impact of AI on the organization’s talent composition. Whether it is Generative AI or ML capabilities, no AI can run independently without human oversight today. Every implementation requires supervision because AI doesn’t have the ability to make judgments. That’s why, instead of displacing people from their current roles, it will move them around. CIOs must recognize that people will need to be re-schooled and re-educated, and this will enable them to do their current jobs in better and more exciting ways.
#4. Keep track of the velocity of change
In the context of transformation, keeping the velocity of change in mind is essential. Transitioning to cloud-based systems will change the processes underpinning these systems and may also require your people to pick up new skills on the fly. During the period of cloud transformation, CIOs will need to keep a handle on the dichotomy of old and new systems – this places a new premium on the ability to balance innovation and stability. This is where it becomes imperative to find the middle ground between short-term operational needs and long-term strategic needs.
Moreover, cloud-based enterprise technology platforms also introduce new capabilities at a faster pace. For instance, Oracle now brings quarterly releases to its cloud portfolio, which is unfamiliar to multi-year upgrade cycles of the on-prem world. This means that after adopting cloud-based enterprise technology applications, CIOs should institute a process to decide which features to implement and what changes can be waited out. While leading providers like Oracle classify new capabilities into optional and must-implements, the CIO must ensure that the right people will continuously track which capabilities to adapt after every new release.
#5. Build a tightly knit ecosystem of partners
Lastly, the relationship between the partners becomes crucial in determining the business value an initiative delivers to the organization. The closer the relationship between partners from the senior level to the working level, the more successful the implementation. Consider a case where an organization is implementing an HCM application, leveraging Oracle as a delivery partner, another organization as an integrator, and yet another organization as its Application Managed Services (AMS) provider. In such a scenario, it is critical to ensure that three seamlessly work together so that at the point of handoff, it's not drop-bottom.
Summing it up
Amidst rapid acceleration in the evolution of business technology, the CIO must enable the organization to navigate the change strategically. This means that the CIO must keep a pulse on the impact of technological change on the organization's people. But at the same time, they must also build trusted relationships with the C-suite and a reliable partner network to enable seamless transformations. By fulfilling their role as a business strategist of the technologically enabled organization, the CIO can help each stakeholder find assured success in the new digital economy.
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