Going bimodal: the changing role of the IT leader


In today’s business world, the CIO or IT Director has never been more relevant or influential. Computer Weekly’s recent CIO Trends Q1 2016 survey, featuring exclusive research from Deloitte on the changing role of the CIO, reveals how they are increasingly moving into business leadership positions. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at this evolution. After all, participation at the most senior decision-making level has been a long-time aspiration for many CIOs around the globe. So, what’s driving this shift – and why now?

The CIO as an agent of change

In part, it’s down to the digital revolution. The relentless march of ‘always on’ technology in recent years has proved a game-changer. In the process, it’s changed how everyone, including Board members, think about information technology. The reality is that technology now underpins every aspect of the enterprise, and that’s projected the CIO into a brave new, more strategic role.

With leading-edge organisations expending time and energy looking for new ways to embrace the digital revolution, in a bid to enhance how they interact with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, the CIO is increasing being viewed as a high profile digital ‘agent of change’. As a result, creative CIOs are now exploring innovative apps and changing long-established core business models in order to give their organisations an edge in an increasingly challenging business world.

Challenges ahead

This shift from ‘operating’ to a more expanded ‘creating’ role does, pose a number of challenges for the CIO. Recent joint research by MIT, Harvey Nash and KPMG into the changing role of the CIO confirms that skills shortages and lack of talent is now a primary concern; 65% of CIOs and IT leaders say this will prevent them keeping up with the pace of change. Analytics, business intelligence and digital are all top priority areas for CIOs, who are looking to exploit these technologies in innovative ways that deliver business benefits. What’s more, cyber security isn’t going to get any easier. In fact, CIOs say they view security as an escalating challenge.

The drive to bimodal

Given these pressures, some IT leaders are taking the bull by the horns and pursuing a bimodal IT strategy. In this set up, one group is tasked with keep-the-lights-on activities while the other handles more innovative business-advancing tasks.

According to Gartner, making the move to bimodal IT is all about speed and agility. Because not only do CIOs need to ensure they have the people, resources and skills to keep the ship afloat, they also need to deliver on the important digital initiatives demanded by the business.

For some CIOs, struggling to do it all is not seen as a smart move. Instead, they’re opting to partner with an experienced, external IT provider to manage Mode 1 activities, such as managing core systems, maintenance, stability and efficiency, on their behalf. It’s an approach that frees up their internal teams to tackle the strategic Mode 2 digital transformation and innovation activities.

According to Gartner, 45% of CIOs say they currently have a fast mode of operation in place, and that 75% of IT organisation expect to be bimodal in some way by 2017. So, where are you on this journey to digital transformation?

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