A need for creativity in IT is changing the role of chief information officers (CIOs), according to research undertaken by BT and Vanson Bourne.
Nearly two-thirds of 955 IT decision makers from organisations with 1,000 or more employees, across eight countries and regions, said that their board recognises the need for a more creative and innovative CIO.
Graham Opie, director at Vanson Bourne, explained in a roundtable discussion attended by V3 that 80 percent of respondents said that the perception of the CIO's role changing.
"The CIO's profile seems to be moving beyond that caricature of the person responsible for the selection, purchase, installation and maintenance of technology, into a much broader scenario for the business as a whole," he said.
This need for innovation and creativity feeds into a recognition that modern CIOs need to play a larger role in the operation of a company as a whole, rather than taking a 'keeping the lights on' approach to IT, according to the research.
Some 81 percent of IT decision makers think that the standing of CIOs in boardrooms has become more central, and that there are more business-related expectations of the role.
Luis Alvarez (pictured), chief executive at BT Global Services, said that the evolving role of CIOs is causing a "shift in their accountability", putting an emphasis on the need to show how technology can improve, rather than just sustain, business productivity and processes.
"It's not about knowing the technology and being ‘best in class'. It's also about understanding the business and being able to take to board discussions and internal meetings a different perspective of the business by using technology," he said.
"I've been a CIO, and it's clear to me how the role is changing. The CIO of tomorrow's successful digital business will have a more creative, imaginative and visionary mind-set."
David Aron, vice president at Gartner, echoed Alvarez's views. "Suddenly there is this huge opportunity for IT to add value," he explained.
"And there's a real question about how the leadership plays out, because IT has kind of been in the engine room keeping things safe."
Aron added that the need for creative, business-focused CIOs is leading to the hiring of more chief operating officers (COOs) below the CIO.
These COOs are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company's IT infrastructure, freeing up time for the CIO to explore more innovative business uses for technology.
Some areas touted by the research that CIOs should focus on were mobility, the use of cloud services, harnessing big data, and unified communications tools.
However, while it was agreed that creativity is perceived to be a real opportunity for CIOs to contribute more to a business as a whole, Alvarez said that "not all CIOs are ready to cope".
He explained that the technology industry needs to take an active role in helping CIOs to be creative through the use of partnerships that encourage more original uses for technology.
Ashish Gupta, CIO at BT Global Services, explained that CIOs can be creative in numerous and sometimes mundane ways.
"There is a form of creativity that says I have a core service, but how do I differentiate it to be more competitive or expand it so that I can capture the adjacent market?" he said.
"Fundamentally it's the sum of all the parts: there is creativity in [managing] costs, there is creativity in how you sell to customers, there is creativity in how you use the power of technology to think of new ideas."
The changing role of CIOs is a hot topic in the IT industry. V3 recently hosted a roundtable discussion with CIOs on how to overhaul businesses for the digital era.
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