In most enterprises, the chief information officer has long enjoyed distinction as the key driver of technology adoption and innovation. But that's changing as business groups throughout the corporation implement new technologies -- often without the CIO's approval.
The chief marketing officer has taken the lead in many organizations in the adoption of social media to understand consumer behavior and deliver new products ahead of the competition. CMOs have also been known to commission mobile apps from their marketing agencies to drive customer engagement. This is often done without the knowledge or support of the CIO.
Eventually, the management of these apps and the data they generate ends up on the CIO's desk, so it's probably a good idea for the marketing gurus to bring the CIO in on the project at the beginning, rather than the 11th hour. Collaboration across business functions is the best approach to a social strategy, according to industry experts such as Jeff Pundyk, founder of the marketing consulting firm Rebound Media.
Heads of human resources departments also are making innovative use of social networks to meet recruitment demands. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are fertile territory for tracking top talent and networking across professional circles. Such activities require HR to adhere to company privacy rules and government regulations. Savvy HR professionals will loop in with the CIO and legal departments to ensure their activities meet established guidelines about how personal data is handled and what can be accessed via third-party networks.
Big-data is red hot in the retail, biotech, pharma, and defense industries, to name but a few. These organizations realize that they're sitting on a vast treasure trove of information, which, if mined, can lead to new ways of understanding their businesses, their customers, and future outcomes. The IT department remains the keeper of the warehouses used to manage this data, but the line-of-business heads are defining the business processes and gleaning new insights that will lead to business innovation.
However, big-data is too big and too complex for any single department to own. That's why it's essential for the CIO and business unit heads to be in lockstep when it comes to how big-data is implemented, managed, and utilized.
So the CIO doesn't possess all the cool toys anymore. But CIOs remain relevant. They are the data experts. They're used to gathering information, deciphering patterns, and culling opportunities. Even though CIOs have to share some of their technology responsibilities with others, they still have a unique perspective to offer and expertise to share with their business counterparts.
According to McKinsey & Co., C-level execs like the CIO must possess equal measures of strategy expertise and execution ability. They must also have a good understanding of the core nature of the business and its key departments.
And it's imperative that they remain part of any and all innovation initiatives at their companies.
— Karyl Scott is a technology journalist based in San Diego, where she covers the intersection of mobile and social media, big-data, analytics, and business innovation.