Transformer in Chief: The Evolving Role of the CIO

The role of today’s CIO is bigger than delivering technology — they are charged with leading transformation efforts across the entire organization and preparing the business for the next wave of disruption.

At the Millennium Alliance in Miami this year, it was clear from our conversations that CIOs have evolved from technology stewards to enterprise transformation leaders.

In the pre-event survey, CIOs from banks, retail, publishing, and manufacturing were asked about key objectives and projects for the next six to 12 months. Digital was mentioned most often, closely followed by cloud and transformation. Projects involving application development as well as modernization and automation followed by AI/ML were also top priorities.  

millennium alliance survey

Digital transformation and cloud ranked high for financial and banking CIOs, especially as technology in the banking industry has been fairly stagnant due to slow digital adoption and heavy regulations. While every industry has been feeling the pinch of data privacy and security, banks have been dealing with it for decades. Legacy, monolithic systems are the norm in established banks, and it’s been slowing down their digital transformation and cloud adoption efforts. 

More organizations have been embracing open-source technologies, such as GitHub and Jenkins, and moving away from waterfall dev/test to agile continuous methodologies for faster innovation. But data is still a challenge when it comes to managing privacy concerns because data isn’t as agile as code. Steering data security and privacy regulations have created barriers to using complete sets of production-quality data for dev/test, oftentimes derailing the success of a new product release and causing extra development cycles to fix issues. 

Even though security didn’t show up as a key project in the survey, the majority of CIOs mentioned the need to protect personally identifiable information (PII) in accordance with the GDPR and CCPA as executive leaders at banks and retail voiced their concerns about PCI regulations for credit card numbers. It was surprising to hear about credit card numbers ending up as plain text in help center notes, emphasizing the need for transforming not only technology but also the culture at large enterprise organizations.

Clearly, driving transformation in their respective organizations is becoming the biggest responsibility for CIOs. Enterprise leaders have three main goals:

  1. Innovate quickly 
  2. Comply with security regulations 
  3. Bring the entire company along in the transformation journey

These are no small tasks. It takes a unique set of talents including understanding the technology ecosystem, strategic thinking, and the ability to motivate and cultivate people and teams. The CIOs we met at Millennium Alliance were definitely up to the challenge. 

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