Published on November 16, 2023, 5:10 pm

In today’s fast-paced digital age, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is evolving. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, CIOs are realizing the importance of looking beyond their own organizations for solutions to big business challenges.

Traditionally, CIOs relied on internal IT teams to deliver business solutions. However, in the face of constant innovation and competition, it has become clear that no single technology department can generate every necessary innovation to stay ahead. That’s why many CIOs are shifting their approach and embracing partnerships as a means to transform IT into an enabler of business innovation.

To make this shift successfully, Keith Woolley, Chief Digital Information Officer at the University of Bristol, suggests that CIOs must have a deep understanding of their organization’s capabilities and the goals they need to achieve. It goes beyond just technical expertise; CIOs must also possess business acumen in areas such as finance, human resources, and audits.

The perception of the CIO role has also been changing over time. According to Bev White, CEO at recruitment specialist Nash Squared, more global technology leaders are now members of operational boards or executive management teams. CIOs are becoming equals to long-established senior colleagues like CFOs and COOs.

White believes that being an effective CIO requires more than just technical knowledge; it requires curiosity about change and a willingness to explore a broad range of IT systems and services available in the market. Additionally, establishing strong relationships with suppliers and staying ahead of emerging trends is crucial for success.

Sasha Jory, CIO at insurer Hastings Direct, emphasizes that forming partnerships rather than mere supplier relationships is essential for her IT team. By partnering with core technology suppliers and systems integrators like Snowflake, Microsoft, EY, and Guidewire, Jory ensures effective utilization of technologies while remaining open to innovative ideas from these partners.

Jarrod Phipps, CIO at auto specialist Holman, advises the next generation of IT leaders to go beyond their offices and engage with customers, employees, and industry peers. By embracing a diverse network of potential partners and being open to learning from others’ experiences, CIOs can gain valuable insights and stay ahead of the curve.

Startups also play a significant role in driving innovation. Bev White suggests that large companies can learn a great deal from smaller businesses with incredible ideas. Creating networks of startups can lead to the development of new services and collaborations that produce remarkable results.

PepsiCo is an example of how partnerships with startups can drive change. The company works with over 30 startups in various countries to achieve sustainable solutions. For instance, partnering with technology firm WINT enables PepsiCo factories to use AI technology to prevent water leaks, reducing annual water consumption by up to 25%. Similarly, collaborations with other startups like UBQ Materials help transform unsorted household waste into bio-based thermoplastics for product display stands.

Automotive giant Audi has also established a Production Lab to identify innovations that enhance efficiency and quality across its plants. By exploring technologies not yet used in production processes, Audi strives for continuous improvement and helps shape the future of production lines.

Innovation is not limited to private companies; institutions like the University of Bristol are also taking steps towards fostering innovation networks. Through initiatives like Engine Shed, the university supports spinouts and collaborates with Bristol City Council to create spaces where people connect, collaborate, and innovate.

Keith Woolley encourages CIOs to think about how they can foster innovation networks within their organizations. Understanding market trends is essential for implementing the right technologies that drive business change effectively.

In conclusion, being a successful CIO today requires more than technical expertise; it requires the ability to form partnerships, act as a bridge between technology and business objectives, stay curious about emerging trends, listen attentively, and foster innovation networks. By embracing these qualities, CIOs can become key enablers of business growth and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape.

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