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CIOs: The New Champions of Transformation

-- by Dr. Manish Gupta, Chief Technologist, IBM India/South Asia

The fragile global economy and increasingly fierce competition are putting enormous pressure on the value chains of many organizations across the world. Relatively dynamic industries like Banking and Insurance, Healthcare, and Retail, and even the more conservative ones, like Manufacturing, are striving hard to change their status quo and looking beyond the four walls of the enterprise. They are finding organizational transformation key to create new and stronger connections with end customers and other key stakeholders in their value chains.

Interestingly, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are playing a growingly important role today in this transformation mandate of organizations.

Not so ago, the responsibility of CIOs was believed to be leading a function that was traditionally considered as a “support” unit. Today, IT is all pervasive and is not restricted only to the smooth running of operations but goes far beyond into every aspect of the business – productivity, efficiency, revenue generation, and cost control, among others.

The trend of CIOs transforming their IT infrastructure into a nimble, automated environment that can create a futuristic enterprise had in fact started a few years back. It was driven by the realization that many organizations would find it difficult to support the enterprise of the future with their existing IT infrastructures, which typically include silos of data, applications and hardware that can slow change. However, the new transformation agenda for CIOs transcends the realms of IT.

Beyond the delivery of basic IT services and business process improvements, the transform mandate of CIOs includes helping their public and private sector organizations fundamentally rethink the way they understand and interact with customers and partners alike.

One key to extending the enterprise’s reach is the use of “Big Data”—the vast volumes captured, for example, from instruments like sensors or RFID tags or data gleaned in real-time from millions of Web-based transactions. And it’s not just the volume of data that’s exploding, but the velocity as well. Analyzing today’s staggering volumes is beyond that of most traditional database management tools. To deal with them, real-time data collection and advanced analytics are a primary focus of organizations that have a transformation goal.

Over the next few years, CIOs need to put greater focus on customer analytics, product/service profitability analysis and master data management. This means moving beyond traditional relational database management systems into the next generation of integrated data warehouses and analytical tools.

Simplifying business will be another key area for CIOs. Today, companies are operating in a world that is substantially more volatile, uncertain and complex. Over the last decade, the impact of technology on organizations has risen significantly; contributing to complexity by creating a world that is massively interconnected.

Not surprisingly, organizations that operate with the transformation mandate place substantial emphasis on simplification of both internal processes and interactions with citizens, clients and external partners. The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into core processes. It is paramount that CIOs take a leadership role in creating this platform for co-creation through reducing organizational complexity and enhancing collaboration.

Finally, CIOs need to enable a faster decision making process. Speed has never been more important, with response time – be it go-to-market or client delivery - reducing everyday. By providing sophisticated enterprise dashboards, CIOs can help the organization get a more holistic view of their business and drive faster and more informed decision making.

The role of CIOs has witnessed significant evolution in a relatively short span of time. They have moved closer to the center of action and are now uniquely placed to drive transformation that will make organizations future-ready. They are the new enterprise change-agents of today.