How – and Why – CIOs in Europe Should Reinvent Themselves for a New Age

New Cognizant study reveals that CIOs need to transform their role by acting as digital strategists, executing next-generation technologies collaborating with the C-Suite and nurturing digital talent

Only one-third of European CIOs say they are involved in leading digital transformation at their organisation
To elevate their role in this shift, CIOs need to redefine themselves as digital leaders, with 73% of CIOs believing they must act as digital strategists and transformational leaders, articulating and committing to a shared vision for digital (74%)
Nearly three-quarters of respondents also named C-suite collaboration as key to driving the company’s digital success
64% said a key element of success for digital transformation is the CIO’s ability to actively collaborate with talent acquisition teams to acquire needed skills
Crucially, successful digital leaders need to understand and execute on next generation technologies – driving benefits from social, mobile, analytics, cloud, IoT, open APIs, ‘bots’, machine learning and micro-services to enhance automation, engagement, prediction and execution.

A new study released today by Cognizant, a global leader in information technology, business consulting and business process services, reveals that European CIOs must move out of a “cost centre” or “chief problem-fixer” role and into a strategic leadership position in an organisation to maintain competitive advantage as the digital wave continues to sweep the world.

The report, Being Digital: How and Why CIOs in Europe Are Reinventing Themselves for a New Age, outlines that, for truly digital companies, the digital experience does not stop at the customer touchpoint but is reflected in everything the business does, from operations through to the culture itself. The CIO now plays an increasingly central role in this.

Act as digital strategists and transformational leaders
The survey found that European CIOs are up for this digital challenge. However, currently only one-third of respondents are involved with leading digital transformation at their organisation. The report discusses how, to elevate their role in this shift, CIOs need to redefine themselves as digital leaders, with 73% of CIOs believing they must act as digital strategists and transformational leaders (74%). Recognising their crucial role in digital transformation, two-thirds agreed that digital success requires them to take a hands-on approach to translating the vast possibilities into tangible business results.

Understand and take advantage of next-generation technologies
The technology approaches and IT infrastructures of the past cannot support the new capabilities demanded by the digital era. Today, CIOs need a next-generation IT strategy, which shifts away from a monolithic, big-system approach, to an agile, adaptive one that is made up of modular components, plug-and-play capabilities through open APIs, and easily implemented micro-services and as-a-service processes and applications and the latest technologies such as social, mobile, analytics, cloud, IoT, ‘bots’ and machine learning. The report is clear; successful digital leaders need to and make the most of these technologies to enhance automation, engagement, prediction and execution.

Form collaborative partnerships across the organisation
The report also found that to be seen as a digital leader, CIOs need to nurture strong partnerships within the organisation, advising and serving as a key influencers or a “centre of excellence” for all things digital. In fact, nearly three-quarters of respondents named C-suite collaboration as key to digital success. However, this is not the only partnership the CIO must make. The CIO must become directly engaged and embedded in key digital initiatives and play a central role in the development and commercialisation of these initiatives, working with different teams and departments from across the entire business. Above all, the CIO needs to change core processes and culture, enabling a more agile approach, rather than traditional, slow means of securing investments in IT projects.

Develop digital talent a key requirement
The study also found that CIOs need to recruit, nurture and retain digital talent, emphasising not just technical, but also creative, social and business skills. Over two-thirds of respondents said that a key element of success for digital transformation is the CIO’s ability to actively collaborate with talent acquisition teams to attain the required skills. CIOs have to concentrate on balancing their team with people who excel in, for example, design thinking or technology architecture and bring together these two schools of thought when designing a solution.

Phil Dunmore, Head of Consulting, UK at Cognizant, explains: “CIOs need to lead the change for companies to go from merely ‘doing’ digital to ‘being’ digital to enable new business models, improve operational agility, develop innovative products and services, and deliver a more personalised and engaging customer experience. We see true IT leaders poised to be the next CEOs, moving away from simply being the ‘Chief Problem Fixing Officer’. Now is the time for CIOs to take the leap — to fully commit to a new way of thinking and truly transform themselves to be digital in the new age of business.”

The report Being Digital: How and Why CIOs in Europe Are Reinventing Themselves for a New Age, also identifies six key steps that CIOs should take to drive digital.

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