CIOs: Organisations not prepared for another major disruption

Actionable insights from CIOs for CIOs on how to accelerate digital business transformation

CIOs are thriving again – or at least most are. More than 80 per cent either drive business transformation or partner for it. Given the power of technology to enable new ways of working and competing, it is not surprising that CIOs have taken this position. That said, a relatively small percentage still focus primarily on infrastructure.

Despite a time of unprecedented investment in digital infrastructure and transformation, about two-thirds (68 per cent) of chief information officers (CIOs) worldwide believe their organisation is not completely prepared to help their companies withstand another major business disruption.

About less than half (44 per cent) agree strongly that they are well-positioned to support company growth after the pandemic.

Genpact’s recently released research, Pilots, co-pilots, and engineers: digital transformation insights from CIOs for CIOs, conducted by the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, revealed the views of technology leaders on lessons learned in weathering the storm of the pandemic and preparedness for the journey forward.

As the CIO role continues to evolve, almost all of them expect their roles to expand. Almost all report to or interact with the CEO regularly. And many are exploiting the cloud, advanced analytics, and automation. The big future bet that unites all CIOs is artificial intelligence (AI).

To access new talent and skill sets, many are exploiting their external ecosystem partners. All of which bodes well for the CIO’s future transformational activities. In addition to flexing their technology muscles, many CIOs are still building their transformation muscles, which must include strength in change management and business knowledge

CIOs and other technology leaders have led heroic work to help their companies stay in business during the pandemic. CIOs that had invested in automation, cloud processing and storage, digital commerce, and advanced analytics have been able to adapt most successfully. The question now is where will they focus their organisations be in the future?

The view from the pilot seat

The CIO’s role has always had multiple components, but in forward-thinking firms, it’s increasingly oriented toward leading business transformation through technology. At one time, most CIOs came up through the IT function, but now many come into the job with business backgrounds and appreciate the potential of technology to transform strategies, processes, and business models. This business knowledge – combined with regular CEO meetings – is helping transformation pilots succeed.

As Aarti Shah, chief information and digital officer at pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly puts it, “I entered the CIO role from the business, not technology, side. These internal experiences have been invaluable in helping me shape impactful digital transformation initiatives for core business functions.” From our research results, we find that transformation pilots are most confident about their ability to support business growth, face future disruption, and lead a culture of data-driven decision-making.

The well-equipped CIO The need for a CIO to drive business transformation is often established when the CIO is hired, said Nicholas Parrotta, chief digital and information officer at electronics company Harman International.

“When I joined Harman, there was an expectation from the CEO, the board, the business stakeholders – and even the IT department – that my role would be a driver of strategic and transformative change,” he explained.

These transformation pilots are equipped – and expected – to take control of strategy and lead impactful change from the outset. Negotiating this level of responsibility while already working at a company can be more difficult. Transformation pilots are consistently out front on key issues. For example, 52 per cent agree strongly that the CIO organisation is well positioned to support the growth of the company after the pandemic. Only 43 per cent of co-pilots and 36 per cent of engineers feel this way.

Accountability for the customer experience (CX) is something 40 per cent of transformation pilots believes their CIO organisation is responsible for, compared to just 22 per cent of engineers. In fact, CIOs are uniquely positioned to connect CX and employee experience (EX) technologies.

Only when employees are digitally enabled can they deliver the experiences customers expect, said John Heveran CIO of global risk solutions at insurer Liberty Mutual.

“We don’t sell a physical product; we sell a promise,” he noted “We promise that if something goes wrong, we’ll make it right. And my role is making sure we use technology most effectively so we can deliver on that promise.”

Transformation pilots are also demonstrating that they can play defence as well as offense. While they rank cybersecurity as a top external threat, they have also been systematically investing in cybersecurity and reporting on progress to their boards.

How transformation pilots can soar to new heights Talent:

  • Enhance change management skills and continue to build core business and advanced technology capabilities, like those needed for multi-cloud, AI, and machine learning (ML) initiatives
  • Business platforms: Create unique business platforms that will differentiate your organisation and support new business models
  • Architecture modernisation: Evolve your architecture to a slim core of apps at the centre, centrally manage your data foundation, create global software as a service (SaaS) applications, and build a microservices layer that enables localisation
  • Data: Focus on building data-centric strategies and cultures that strive for clean, integrated data across critical value chains
  • AI and ML: Double down on investments in AI to build a series of interlocking AI widgets that unlock business value
  • Legacy: Determine which legacy systems are a necessary evil and try to modernise them

Responsibilities and response to the pandemic

Compared to transformation pilots and engineers, co-pilots are the most likely group to claim accountability for creating revenue through new digital products and services, and for increasing productivity with process automation. They are also the most likely group to have invested in process automation over the past year.

Looking back at their ability to respond to the pandemic, CIOs in North America and Australia say automating processes has helped them adapt most successfully to changing business conditions.

CIOs in Germany and Singapore credit upskilling employees and CIOs in Japan call out adopting advanced analytics. In the UK, CIOs acknowledge introducing or replacing applications with a SaaS based application stack and re-platforming applications to function in the cloud.

How co-pilots can own the flight path

  • Talent: Improve business and change management skills, continue building advanced architecture and cloud-first skills
  • Transformation: Unite business and technology strategy, invest in change management capabilities, and free up time to explore emerging technologies
  • Business platforms: Pick one or two unique business platforms that will differentiate your organisation and focus on creating and enabling them
  • Architecture modernisation: Adopt a cloud-first approach with a clear roadmap to slim-core architecture
  • Data: Champion data literacy and focus on building a certified data foundation across critical value chains
  • AI and ML: Continue to build capabilities and use cases for AI and ML adoption and develop a centre of excellence if you don’t already have one
  • Legacy: Educate your C-suite and business leaders on why legacy technology is a necessary evil but minimise technical debt where you can



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