What's important for the digital CIO?

New BT research looks at the balance between traditional IT and the emerging digital world

This is a contributed piece from Ashish Gupta, president of UK and global banking & financial markets, BT

According to the latest report by BT, “The digital CIO”, the pressures of digital transformation are creating new challenges for CIOs as they manage the implementation of digital strategy across their organisation.

CIOs are reporting that their influence in the boardroom is growing, and with it, that new tasks are falling within their remit. For example, developing new business models to cope with increased connectivity and engagement, and recruiting talent with appropriate digital skills. At the same time, CIOs are coping with the three truly disruptive trends driving organisational change - cloud, mobility and collaboration and data.

As a result, balancing traditional IT such as maintaining legacy systems, with the fast-paced world of new digital technology is becoming an essential skill for CIOs worldwide.


Digital uprising

The digital revolution is already successfully underway with a fifth of organisations already describing themselves as completely cloud-centric, and a further 46 per cent reporting that at least half of their infrastructure is now in the cloud.

As a result of this shift, the IT function is increasingly being forced to balance its time and budget between traditional and cloud-based IT systems. CIOs must simultaneously embody both IT consultant and business partner across all departments of the organisation in order to manage the transition from software stored on servers to the cloud.


Balancing the scales

While the CIO role continues to change dramatically, the old practicalities and pressures remain. 61 per cent of senior IT decision makers feel the CIO is forced to spend more time maintaining current IT systems than searching for new solutions. While that demonstrates a drop from research conducted in 2014, when the figure was 74 per cent, it shows that the CIO is still operating with one foot firmly trapped in the server room door.

As cloud adoption increases, so does pressure from other parts of the organisation for the adoption of new technology, particularly from marketing, client relationship management, R&D and sales. CIOs have to simultaneously manage expectations and enable the deployment of new solutions, while managing expectations.

Adopting a multi-speed, or bimodal, IT approach enables the IT function to meet these pressures. In fact 76 per cent of large organisations across the world have, or plan, to adopt a multi-speed approach to technology initiatives. By using this approach, our report shows that senior IT decision makers aim to sidestep the difficulties of legacy IT systems when adopting new digital technology.

In addition to adopting a multi-speed IT strategy, CIOs recognise the potential of centralised management systems for facilitating digital adoption within businesses. This helps to overcome concerns around complexity or security which can cause roadblocks in rolling out new technology. In fact, our research shows that 43 per cent of senior IT decision makers see the significant advantages of using centralised management for all systems.

The process of transferring applications and infrastructure to the cloud can seem a cumbersome task if it concerns an organisation’s entire IT suite. However, a significant number of senior IT decision makers already view cloud technology as the facilitator for businesses, with huge potential for enabling development across the entire organisation.


What’s important for the digital CIO?

The significant impact of cloud, mobility and collaboration, and data is demanding a CIO skill-set that embraces change. The CIO and corresponding IT function are adapting to provide more of an enabling role than a strict command and control centre. Flexibility around new business models, faster adoption of technology trends and more agile working.

As organisations look towards the future, the CIO must balance traditional IT with the emerging digital world. Acting as a consulting horizontal they must implement business partner models, maintain systems and keep up with internal and external demand for new technology. Now more than ever, the digital CIO has the opportunity to impact company growth, increase sales and work as a major innovator across the organisation.