CIOs Leading Transformation: Can’t See The Business For The Bytes

For the last decade IT department spending has remained static at around 1% of sales but this does not reflect the true amount being spent on technology because marketing, e-commerce and other parts of retail organisations are committing increasing amounts of capital expenditure to IT.

CIOs leading transformation

This is resulting in an increasingly impotent IT leader with CIOs being relegated to managing the more mundane tasks such as keeping the technology infrastructure running (cue the violins…). On top of every department and its dog raiding its budget, the newer customer-facing digital-focused roles such as chief customer officers and chief data officers are dealing with the more exciting aspects of IT such as app developments and personalisation initiatives. CIOs, we feel for you, but switching yourselves off then on again won’t make the problem magically disappear this time.

The reality for CIOs is that as technology has become an integral part of everybody’s life, including that of retailers’ customers, there is a need for the leaders of IT within retail businesses to take a much broader view of what they can deliver rather than simply managing the bits and bytes. To stay relevant, CIOs need to become business-focused rather than just technology-focused. This then allows them to make decisions based on delivering outcomes that positively affect elements right across the business, way beyond the door of the IT department. This represents a significant shift in mind-set away from the old model of IT leader, which has been more about protecting a fiefdom where they are more likely to have said ‘no’ to technology requests from across the business.

We are now in a much more ‘can-do’ agile era and the CIO of the future has to adapt to this changing environment. There has been an argument that this revolution in new business-focused thinking will only fully come through as the newer generation of IT leaders develop and take up the reins of power. These are the digital-natives that have grown up with technology and they see it as much more of an enabler as opposed to something that has all too frequently been used as an obstacle to technological progress.

Whether this is true or not the fact remains that for those individuals in IT departments and CIOs the retail landscape has changed dramatically and unless they want to sit by and watch as greater amounts of their budgets are taken by other departments then a new business-centric mindset needs to be adopted. CIO roles are no longer just about technology, but doing the business.