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The CIO’s pressure-cooker portfolio

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It takes a great deal more than mere passion for- and understanding of technology to fulfil the role of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in businesses across Africa. Today, market trends dictate that the CIO in a company operating on the continent has to possess a keen sense of where, when and how technology works to improve processes and boost operations.

The changing role of the CIO in Africa. (Image source: CIO via

ICT industry analysts have summarised the main change to the role of the CIO as being someone who now not only has technical expertise, but also strong business skills in terms of operations and strategy.

Traditionally, the CIO’s role was almost exclusively focused on technology alone. “The CIO of any large corporation used to be the ‘tech guy’, he or she understood technology as it related to businesses and its needs, and (they) oversaw implementation and operation,” explains Steven Ambrose, CEO of Strategy Worx Consulting.

He believes that the advent of consumerisation of technology and the fact that technology and computing has largely become commoditised are key reasons behind the evolution of the CIO’s role.

“Today the CIO needs to understand how finance, marketing, and operations are co-dependant and use technology for delivery and functioning of all business processes, both internal and customer-facing,” Ambrose adds.

Team player

CIOs are now being evaluated on the strength of their ability to deal with technology integration in business – and the level at which they engage, interact and liaise with other decision makers.

“More and more the CIO needs to be part of the executive team that guides and runs a company form a strategic and operational perspective,” says Ambrose.

It is a view shared by Funke Opeke, CEO, Main One Cable Company. “Today’s successful CIO must demonstrate strategic leadership and provide solutions utilizing the latest technologies to enable the organization to meet its business objectives.”

Opeke believes that it is the result of numerous changes within the commercial landscape and relevant technologies that have combined to force the CIO to adapt his or her role to ensure the sustainability of the business.

“The most significant changes that the CIO has to deal with in the modern enterprise are the need to be fully Internet enabled, integrate smart phones and mobile technologies, be social media enabled; manage big data, and leverage improved infrastructure and outsourcing services,” she says.

Driving forces then … and now

Two years ago industry analysts, researchers and decision makers in leading technology companies collectively identified four key trends that the CIO could take advantage of- and embrace as part of their role going forward.

These trends included virtualisation, cloud computing, converged infrastructure and mobility.

At the time, these trends were said to enable the CIO to simplify the complex nature of the IT environment and standardise, simplify and automate their IT infrastructure – with the added advice to balance innovation, value and agility.

The realisation today is that there is no area of the business that is not impacted by ICT in some way and, therefore, the CIO has to be more versatile and multifaceted than has been the case in the past.

“Their role is fully integrated into the base fabric of any company much in the same way as the CFO has always been,” Ambrose continues.

The environment has, of course, changed. With the advent of unified Technology companies today have contextualised the dynamics.

As an example, Deloitte has posted details in reports to what it refers to as ‘”five post-digital forces” that the CIO has to contend with.

According to the firm the CIO must “harness the convergence” of these forces and thereby achieve several key changes to the organisation.

These changes include a re-envisioning of the purpose of IT with the customer in mind, provoking and harvesting this potential innovation, protection against disruption, growing the organisation, reshaping business and driving innovation.

Executive regional directors at global flash memory and storage service provider NetApp say that the CIO today is a “broker of technology” and has to play an integral role in helping organisations realise the business potential in technology.

They refer to a Gartner worldwide Executive Program Survey, conducted in the fourth quarter in 2012, which revealed that companies only realise an average of 43% of the business potential of technologies.

Irrespective of the size of the business or its core focus, if the CIO forms part of the executive leadership of the business, there are certain demands placed on their doorstep – and with pace that technology changes, there is a very real possibility the demands will too.

* Image via Shutterstock

Chris Tredger, Online Editor

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