Over the last 100 years, business models have evolved. Much of this evolution has been driven by innovations in technology, including the automobile, airplane, television, mainframe computers and smartphones. These have enabled commerce to expand from local, to regional, to national and, more recently, to global. However, it’s not that one replaces the other, rather, it’s one building on top of the other. The journey must be additive, because businesses need to be responsive to customers that span from local to global.
The Rise of a New Business Model
This evolution of innovation has created a new hybrid business model that’s neither centralized or decentralized. These models are more federated around capabilities that are common and others that are unique. Along with these new models, new functions have emerged, and a new set of executive leadership has evolved. We now have Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), CFOs, COOs, CHROs and a whole new set of various “Chief ________ Officers” heading up such areas as Digital, Data, Analytics, Product, Transformation, Innovation, Customer and Security. These “Chiefs” now dominate the boardroom and strategic dialogue. However, no function has grown faster, and has needed to evolve more, than the CIO.
The Progression From Back-Office to Front and Center
During my 50-plus-year career, we’ve evolved from back-office Accounting Automation in the 1960s and 1970s, to mid-office VP MIS (manufacturing/distribution) in the 1980s and 1990s, to front-of-the-house CIO in recent decades. The shift from being somewhere in the middle to front and center has been heavily influenced by the internet and its ability to rapidly change an entire industry seemingly overnight. This means we now have a critical and well-earned “seat at the table “.
The CIO Role Evolves One Step Further
After six decades, our role has evolved once again as we move from traditional line-of-business and functional systems to a digital, pervasive and seamlessly connected era. In our role, we have to continue to provide strong, functional capabilities to our line-of-business and department leader peers. However, winning in the future requires us to provide the “connective tissue” to be able to sense and respond between business units, functions, products, geographies and customers.
Now, in the age of the customer and global commerce, functional excellence is only table stakes. It’s cross-functional excellence that’s the key to thriving, and that’s all about seamless integration and a connection between the brain (data/AI) and all parts of the body (functions) at speed and scale. To achieve this, you must first identify the 30 game changers in your organization, as they are crucial to the success of any major initiative.
Regardless of how many “Chiefs” show up in your company’s org chart or boardroom, our distinct role, as CIOs, is to build this “Nervous System” or “Digital Integration Highway” that enables the enterprise to compete in the modern era. That’s been the basis of our push for the last decade (see my book Blind Spot: A Leader’s Guide to IT-Enabled Business Transformation) to evolve our title once more from Chief Information Officer to Chief INTEGRATION Officer. After all, winning is all about integration.