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The CIO Fit for the Digital Age

How digitization is redefining the role of the Chief Information Officer


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In a recent Oxford CIO Academy webinar ‘CIO: Insider or Outsider?’, Saïd Business School professor Michael Earl considers how the role of CIO has evolved over the past 10 years and how organizations increasingly look to IT leaders for thought leadership, direction and innovation.

Ten years ago as the DOT.com bubble burst IT was in a bad place. Since then digitization has brought us mobile communications, social media, big data, et al. and the questions asked of IT and the CIO have moved from how to create a secure system that doesn’t crash, to how to exploit burgeoning IT technologies.

Earl speaks of a four-phase evolution. Initially the CIO was seen as a steward ensuring secure systems and no disasters, the role then became one of redesigning processes in a search for enterprise integration. Then, as some CIOs saw the potential to take a collaborative strategic role, IT teams were encouraged to develop strategic capabilities such as relationship management and a rounded business understanding. The final phase saw CIOs as an innovation source and a partner in value creation.

This final stage of development is one that sees the CIO best fit to embrace the digital age. He or she still needs to be a good manager of IT but also to be strategically capable and a source of innovation. To achieve this a CIO’s time should ideally be divided: 40% inside IT; 40% outside IT; and 20% outside the organization altogether (with clients and suppliers). Unfortunately, as Earl points out, the reality is not yet there, and the more common ratio is: 70%/25%/5%.

The Saïd Business School is Europe’s fastest growing business school. An integral part of the University of Oxford, it embodies the academic rigour and forward thinking that has made Oxford a world leader in education.

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