By Naufal Khan, Jason Reynolds, and Christoph Schrey

CIOs must rewrite their job descriptions. Despite performance concerns and an uncertain future for IT, CIOs will need to increase expectations for themselves and the IT function. They must also work hard to elevate their role within the organization, developing both their leadership and business muscles while building a more direct reporting line to the CEO. To do so, they will need to write a more ambitious job description that reflects their organizations’ broader aspirations for growth and innovation. This could mean taking on newer responsibilities around customer engagement, such as omnichannel design, design and oversight of analytics, and the centralization and automation of core business functions. CIOs will also need to focus on developing both the functional skills (such as digitization and delivery) and the leadership skills necessary to gain credibility as a true business partner, and they must ensure that the IT organizations they lead are meeting—or even surpassing—expectations.

Address nagging causes of IT ineffectiveness. The results point to three critical areas of IT ineffectiveness—a lack of priorities, operating-model weaknesses, and issues related to talent—on which organizations must make quick progress. The first requires a frank discussion with business leaders to close the gap between perceived and actual priorities. Agreeing on priorities will help IT play a clear, focused role in the organization, ensure visibility and appreciation for the technology-related transformations IT is leading, and let IT leaders shift their time and resources to the areas the business values most, such as innovation and integration. The second—strengthening IT’s operating model—has been a top-two cause of poor performance for two years in a row and is especially crucial for organizations pursuing digital transformations. These organizations will need to move to a more unified and flexible operating model to support large-scale digital efforts that will inevitably span disparate technologies (legacy and next-generation) and delivery practices (agile and traditional methodologies). Finally, the search for top IT talent must include new approaches to workforce planning, attraction, evaluation, and development, as well as the culture of the IT organization.

Integrate technology across the enterprise. Another opportunity for CIOs is the role of integrator. Respondents report a wide variety of technology-leadership roles at their organizations, and that technology is touching upon the work of many business functions. CIOs, then, are in a unique position to observe these activities at their organizations and serve as a central architect to help manage the technology-enabled innovations and capabilities. To do so, they will need to strengthen their own transformation muscles by freeing up change-minded technology leaders from their day-to-day activities and building transformation-leadership capabilities within their teams. They will also need to connect more closely with committed business partners who understand the long-term journey of transformation via technology and are willing to help navigate the organization through potential disruptions.

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