The Evolving Role of the CIO

Town Hall Insights
Chicago CIO Community

John Poli

Industry Principal, Healthcare



Niyi Adedoyin




Ash Goel




Gagan Singh




The scope of CIO responsibilities today expands beyond managing the IT of an organization. CIOs must be business leaders looking to add value to a company, talent leaders finding the right employees and adaptive leaders who first need to identify the problem before they can solve it. So, what’s in store for tomorrow's CIO?

The Chicago CIO community recently came together to discuss the evolving role of a CIO and how to deliver at the bottom line, while juggling other responsibilities. John Poli, Industry Principal, Healthcare at RingCentral moderated the discussion, with Niyi Adedoyin, Senior Vice President and CIO at GATX, Ash Goel, Senior Vice President and CIO at Bronson, and Gagan Singh, CIO at Ascension serving as discussion leaders.

Holistic Model of CIO Responsibilities

John Poli kicked off the session by sharing some insights about the holistic model of a CIO. He shared that all of a CIO’s core responsibilities, including driving operational efficiencies, integrating IT projects into the organization’s priorities, and seamlessly adopting new technologies – all need to be aligned to corporate strategy. But, he noted that the model becomes increasingly challenging given circumstances today.

CIOs are facing cost pressures, supply chain disruptions, skill shortages, and security threats. On top of that, IT leaders are figuring out what opportunities exist in AI and the cloud for their organizations. All of this means that the CIO role of tomorrow will need to prepared for:

  • Delivering at the bottom line. Poli noted that “CIOs need to know the business like the CFO knows the business.” They are key when it comes to helping the company drive efficiencies through technology and leading change management and technology adoption.
  • Becoming an agile leader. As the organization’s information owner, the CIO needs to ensure that insights get to the right people at the right time. This could mean anything from simplifying data and analytics to institutionalizing best practices that empower decision making. 
  • Adapting to a changing CIO role. As technology changes an organization’s operating model, CIOs are in a position to impact adoption and change. They also have a view of how IT is impacting the workforce and therefore how to improve productivity and culture.

Key Takeaways from the Discussion on CIO Leadership

  • The role has changed - and so has the technology. CIOs agreed that not only has their role changed dramatically in the last five years – so has the technology and delivery. They are managing a combined strategy around platforms, not individual applications; many are moving into SAAS- or vendor-dependent models; and delivery is focused on user experiences. As one CIO noted, the business is relying on CIOs to discern between “hype and hope” when it comes to new tools.
  • IT is closer to the business, and CIOs are well-positioned to drive value. CIOs are finding opportunities to create efficiencies and lead the conversation on effective processes and models. Other business leaders can also increasingly see how IT helps in the analytics space, drawing IT into business decision making. As they become ever closer to the bottom line, CIOs are also positioned to be the stewards of digital investments.
  • Positioning IT is a value center – not a cost center. CIOs also discussed how to ensure that their teams are focused on building things that drive business ahead. They play a key role when it comes to the customer journey and the investments needed. CIOs can bring transparency to business operations and generate new ideas. IT leaders also cautioned against spending time and money on custom solutions unless it’s absolutely necessary for the business. 

As their role has evolved, CIOs are increasingly in the position to drive change and value across the organization. As IT becomes closer to the business, it’s critical for CIOs to understand the value of where the transformation is happening, articulate it to the business, and adjust their IT strategies accordingly. To plan for the future, CIOs must think about what impact they can make on the business’ bottom line.

To continue the discussion on the evolving CIO role and to stay on top of what your CIO peers are working on, join a CIO community near you, or check out our calendar for opportunities to get together in person and virtually. 

by CIOs, for CIOs

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