CIOs walking digital tightrope between opportunity and risk

These are scary, exciting times for CIOs who must tackle digital transformations.

By Clint Boulton
Jan. 18, 2017

Only 33 percent of respondents have a defined process for adopting emerging technology and 68 percent were very or somewhat comfortable with a “technology first/requirements second” approach to emerging technology adoption. Moreover, less than 30 percent have processes in place to measure the return-on-investment of their emerging technology pilots. 

Andriole says that fear of being lapped by competitors is motivating companies to quicken their development velocity. Watch and wait has been replaced by a full-speed ahead mentality. This piles risk onto the already dicey proposition of playing with new technologies.

Andriole says that companies can mitigate the risk of disruption by designating staff to scan the horizon for disruptive technologies, testing new solutions and quickly deciding to adopt or abandon the work. "There needs to be a new core competency around rapid tech adoption so you can succeed fast or fail fast," Andriole says.

The new burning platform is ... the CIO?
Andriole’s position has merit when you consider that you’d be hard-pressed to find a CIO who isn’t building software in agile and DevOps methodologies to get minimally viable products out the door.

Ultimately, the CIO is still the best person to guide their companies through these tectonic shifts and drive change, right?

Perhaps, but the reality is that enterprises are littered with numerous IT transformation failures. Heidrick & Struggles’ Aiello says such disasters have cracked open the door for chief digital officers, chief data officers and even CMOs, who use digital, data and obsess over customers, respectively, to shepherd change.

“The notion that the CIO is the be-all, end-all of technology in an organization… I think those days are over,” Aiello says.

What isn’t in question is that large companies are warming to the CDO role, based on developments over the past two years. In a bold organizational change triggered by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, GE’s transformation into a multi-billion-dollar industrial software enterprise is shepherded by its global CDO, Bill Ruh. In the waning months of 2016, Volvo Cars replaced a senior IT leader with CDO Atif Rafiq, Emaar Properties hired Alaska Airlines CIO Veresh Sita to inject digital into its real estate developments and Sprint hired Comcast’s Rob Roy as its CDO while Kroger named Yael Cosset as its new CDO.

Regardless of the current CIO-CDO shuffling, some say that digital transformations, however sweeping and comprehensive, are just the latest Big Bang projects. Once they are completed, the CDO-CIO shuffling will subside.

Gerry McNamara, global managing director at Korn/Ferry International.
Korn/Ferry International . Gerry McNamara, global managing director at Korn/Ferry International.

Gerry McNamara, global managing director of the information officer’s practice at Korn/Ferry International, says that companies will always employ a senior leader responsible for IT assets.

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