Wednesday, 29 January 2014 10:07

The emergence of the high performing CIO

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What sets some CIOs apart? What makes some perform well, and others fail? It’s all about leadership.

Sometimes in iTWire we have the opportunity to publish a piece submitted to us which conforms with our editorial philosophy and which we believe adds value to our readership. Here’s and excellent essay from Miguel Gabriel Custodio, Accenture Australia’s IT Strategy Lead.

The mission of most IT organisations is to serve the business by focusing on ways to minimise costs, enhance productivity and streamline processes.

There are good reasons for this, as more efficient operations and processes can help to reduce the impact on the bottom line. But more recently we have seen the emergence of the ‘high performing CIO’, who can identify business opportunities beyond the simple exercise of providing optimal IT services at the most effective cost.

High performing CIOs are characterised by their visionary leadership and experience combined with a willingness to invest in transformative digital technologies that deliver real business advantages. This powerful combination of attributes allows high performing CIOs to enhance the customer experience, drive new growth opportunities and improve overall business performance.

As a general rule, high performing CIOs were early adopters of digital technology, and are therefore in a stronger position than their peers who are only beginning to implement their digital strategies.

Recent research conducted by Accenture reveals that 69% of high performers are committed to mobile transactions as part of their customer service offering, compared to 42% of other CIOs. This is significant, as self-service platforms, with seamless interfaces across mobile, social media, web and physical channels, are critical capabilities for achieving customer acquisition, repeat sales and top-line growth.

All of these factors make high performing CIOs more visionary, advanced and successful than their peers. But most importantly, the gap between high performers and “the rest” continues to increase as high performing companies reap the benefits of an established experience curve. As investments in digital and collaborative technologies mature, high performing firms are able to increase productivity and innovation by capturing knowledge and leveraging real-time customer insights.

This gap will likely widen, as digital tools evolve, customer service improves and revenues increase. The architectural transformations already undertaken by high performing firms have further entrenched their competitive position by increasing their ability to respond to environmental shifts with cost-effective incremental changes rather than disruptive large-scale overhauls.

The research revealed key areas where high performing organisations are leading in IT. First, top performers are learning to master a hybrid IT environment, which replaces legacy architecture with a ‘cloud first’ mentality. And the advantages are overwhelming: 40% of high performers have seen a measurable improvement in IT agility as a result of cloud technology, compared to just 9% of the others.

Second, over the years, leaders in the use of IT have also invested in data management and data quality assurance and, as a result, hold a significant advantage in the race to getting the right data. According to the research, twice as many high performers as other organisations are exceeding business value in key areas, including data management (77% compared to 30%), content management (77% compared to 23%) and predictive analytics (54%compared to 21%).

But challenges remain. The combination of aggregated data, cloud technology, mobile connectivity and the exchange of information across business units also bring security concerns.

This is one area where many organisations still struggle to keep pace; there is a general acknowledgement that endpoint security is not sufficient to deal with the constantly evolving threats. Active defence strategies, which anticipate cyber-attacks and clarify security governance models, are needed to assist firms to protect their intellectual property, product innovation and processes.

In order to become high performers, CIOs must position the customer experience at the heart of all decisions. High performing organisations continually seek more efficient and personalised ways to interact with and learn from their customers. This involves providing customers with more choice, not just in terms of what they are buying, but in the channels through which they are transacting.

It is also essential to adopt a wider perspective of the CIO role and function. Seeing the world through an ‘IT lens’ provides a limited perspective. A key characteristic of high performers is that they explore business scenarios from an overall economic, geopolitical, social and individual customer viewpoints.

It is interesting to note that high performing CIOs have generally been in position for longer than their peers. This may reflect the fact that these CIOs have built strong foundations for their digital businesses that directly result in revenue growth, and they have the metrics to prove it. Indeed, by investing in transformative digital technologies, companies can streamline business processes, aggregate data and respond more quickly to the environmental changes that ultimately enhance the customer experience.

Thanks Miguel, thanks Accenture.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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