The role of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) starts with positioning oneself as a transformational and digital change leader within the business. With availability of cloud computing to manage infrastructure layers of the IT stack, CIO roles will become a lot less operational and more strategic in driving the organization’s digital transformation roadmap. One key imperative in this role is to drive and own the agenda for digital change pertaining to their businesses— especially as it relates to transforming core business operations. Chief Digital Officers will typically own external-facing and product related innovation—CIOs, on the other hand, need to own how insights from these ‘connected’ products can transform the core. CIOs will need to define and operate under a venture capitalistic model and associated principles, to maximize returns on their program investments.
"Technology mega-trends need to be recognized for their disruptive power and should guide the amount of change they can drive into the business"
One approach that I have seen work is through a ‘purpose built’ innovation program—a program that would demonstrate ‘art of the possible’ to the non-IT functions how technology can help reinvent work across the business. The innovation program needs to be executed in the context of various business functions and well aligned to their needs. At the same time, technology mega-trends need to be recognized for their disruptive power and should guide the amount of change they can drive into the business.
CIO can also drive a venture capitalistic model for allocation of funds by developing a well balanced approach to IT investments. Placing bets with a good spread of risk/pay-off profile that can yield significant benefits for big hits. Lastly, CIOs need to find a way to engage the broader organization in a meaningful way by creating culture and structures that allow IT and other business functions to be part of the same team—every time and all the time (co-location, cross-pollination of talent etc.). Promoting a culture that has built-in desire to adapt and learn with potential for producing innovative solutions on a steady basis is pertinent.
No doubt that some of the most powerful trends today include: 1.) Increasing amounts of cheap and powerful sensors 2.) Generated data from the sensors about the world around us 3.) Machine Learning/AI, and 4.) Mixed-Reality. These trends have the potential to equip the workforce with some powerful insights, advisory tools, and innovative human-machine interfaces. This creates step function improvements in business outcomes through productivity and elevated human performance, while also, providing us with the means to run the business differently and leap-frog competition.
Although I named quite a few, I would narrow down the list to Machine Learning and Mixed-Reality, because both trends are focused on making people more productive and allowing them to achieve significantly better outcomes. The importance of these two trends is centered within the ability to stretch performance of our workforce through technology. The efficiency promise is an added element, but I am more focused on enabling an increasing portion of our workforce to operate at an ‘expert’ level, by providing them the best-in-class advisory tools. Machine learning and mixed-reality technologies present an opportunity to engage the end-user in a unique way, whether we are talking about a factory-line worker or a sales person in the field that is looking to have an advantage over the competition.
At GE, we have embarked on a journey that will fundamentally change IT as we know it. The IT business function is evolving to become Digital Technology (IT to DT). We are focused on driving successful business outcomes and accelerating GE’s digital industrial journey. We are going from the ‘back-office order-taker’ mindset to key drivers of business productivity. Working closely with GE’s Global CIO, Jim Fowler, and the broader council of GE business CIOs, we are shifting our operating structure from one of business-dedicated IT organizations to one that will be more of a hybrid structure. We have defined horizontals that will cut across all of GE and will help us maximize both efficiency and productivity in everything we do. We will define technology blueprints for each horizontal and then align all of our businesses to those blueprints and strategic set of products. The creation of the new Digital Technology business function supports GE’s transformation into a true digital industrial leader; one that delivers internally to GE, our customers, and the world through our Predix platform.