The CIO Needs to be Socially SAVVY

By Zuzar Tinwalla, CIO, Standard Chartered Bank

Information rules everything we do. No decision is made, and very little purposeful action is taken, without in­formation to guide us. The caretaker of information in an organisation is the CIO who develops and manages the plan for how information is accumulated, or­ganised, stored, transacted, and ana­lysed. As information increasingly becomes the currency of the global economy, the role of the CIO is changing and becoming more stra­tegic because of the CIO’s unique ability to understand and manage information. However the skill sets that were once needed to manage information are also changing. The CIOs today have to move beyond just “managing” IT and instead fo­cus on helping the organisation find a competitive advantage.

It is commonly believed that the primary function of the CIO is to lead the organisation’s technologi­cal transformation and improve ef­ficiency. However, in my opinion, the primary function of a CIO is to enable friction-less business. As a CIO, we need to talk business strat­egy while providing a platform to enable it. Technology will always be the foundation, but business should be the mindset. As CIO’s we need to develop our proficiency in busi­ness acumen because at the end of the day, we need to contribute to the bottom-line goals. To be an effective partner, we need to understand the different parts of the business as this empowers us to lead, rather than respond. We need a thorough understanding of different groups and how they contribute to the overall business, what they measure, what their short- and long-term plans are, and what is preventing them from achieving their business goals. We need to help people think about what they need and source options for how we might deliver that together.

As a CIO, we need to be masters of both worlds, on one hand we need to be grounded in strong technol­ogy and process orientation skills and be champions of best practice, and on the other hand we need to be risk takers, innovators, change agents and disrupters of tra­ditional working models. In today’s world, a CIO needs to respond to tech-savvy customers and partners who in­creasingly expect organisations to offer the experiences they see made possible by digital technologies around them. The kingmakers in the future will be those who truly know their customer and successfully monetise opportunity through delivering products that the cus­tomer really wants, and this will depend on innovation. In order for an organisation to be truly pioneering, in­novation must begin with the CIO, who, armed with his knowledge about modern technological trends, needs to be the driver for success. Every CIO should cultivate a creative mindset and strive to transform the organisa­tion by stimulating debate on what technology can bring to the organisation and how it can benefit its customers.

Another Important Quality That I Feel A CIO Must Possess, Is Something That Is Not Much Spoken About. I Believe That In Order To Be Truly Influential; A CIO Needs To Be Socially Savvy. High Social Intelligence Is Extremely Important In Order To Influence Key Business Stakehold­ers, Attract And Motivate Talent, And Drive Your Vision And Leadership. Other Than Having A Prowess In Complex Technologies, A CIO Also Needs To Be Adept At Effectively Navigating And Negotiating Through Complex Social Re­lationships And Environments. Similarly, Just Like A CIO Needs To Recruit, Nurture And Retain Digital Talent, We Need To Start Strongly Emphasising On “Polymath” Or Creative, Social And Business Skills In Addition To Simply Technical Skills, While Also Adopting This Mindset For Ourselves.

Let’s Face It, Most Employees Only Think Of IT When Their Laptops Stop Working. Other Than Fixes And New Equipment, IT Doesn’t Last Very Long On An Employee’s Radar. This Is Why It Is Extremely Important For CIO’s To Instill A Culture Of Digital Innovation Across The En­terprise Where Everyone Is Aware Of How Technology And Innovation Is Impacting Them. I Feel That A CIO Certainly Needs To Create A Message About How Digital Initiatives Support The Business, And Deliver That Message Far And Wide. Only When People Hear This Message Will They See Technology As Something Embedded In The Way They Work, Rather Than As A One-Off Project Or Goal Or Some Disconnected Corporate Directive That Has Nothing To Do With Their Own Role.

To Sum It Up, A CIO Needs To Be A Trusted Operator And A Business Co-Creator In Helping A Business Contain Costs And Achieve Efficiencies, A Change Instigator Who Sets A Vision For The Future And Leverages Cutting Edge Technologies For Overall Growth Of The Organisation.

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