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How CIOs can shape business strategy—by choosing the right tech.

by Steve Salvin

CEOs today are familiar with much of the technology and processes that enable digital transformation, from cloud services and software licenses to systems architectures that evolve legacy infrastructure. Many of these can now be seen as the standard information technology estate, which keeps the lights on, fulfils service level agreements, and maintains customer satisfaction.

But with cloud-led transformation now the default—accelerated by the need to enable remote working following the pandemic—and the buzz around new technologies growing (see ChatGPT), the potential for technology to shape business strategy has never been more apparent.

A 2023 study by Logicalis revealed that 80% of CIOs expect their role will include more involvement in business strategy in the next two years. This has arguably been the case for years now, but the arrival of advanced tools and platforms over 2022 and 2023 has brought about new expectations from CEOs, who are increasingly looking to exploit digital, data, and AI across their organisations—while doing more with existing technology investments.

CIOs are in a prime position to help their CEOs deliver against business objectives with a technology roadmap that takes people, processes, and existing assets and investments into account. Organisation-wide buy-in for this roadmap is essential, but to choose the technology that will enable this, CIOs must understand the full requirements of the business, as well as the expectations and fears of the CEO.

Communicating your knowledge is power

Providing CEOs and leadership across an organisation with the confidence that the tools and platforms selected for adoption are key to delivering against business objectives is crucial. It’s not just a case of talking up the expected efficiencies and cost-savings once a new solution has been fully implemented, there must be a frank discussion about the adoption process, i.e. the disruption to employees and existing processes, and how each can be minimised.

This is where the CIO’s role is evolving, as they must fully understand these implications and create new processes that optimise implementation, while mitigating the anxieties of the CEO and securing their buy-in.

Security is perhaps the greatest concern when it comes to technology adoption and large-scale transformation, as there is an expectation that the disruption that accompanies implementation may lead to data loss, security issues, and the opening up of new attack surfaces for cyber criminals. Aside from the in-house disruption such incidents bring, business continuity is a key concern as compromised services, which may be mission-critical, may need to be shut down.

If outages are due to a cyberattack or data loss, there is also the added component of fines from regulators, which can be difficult to recover from, both financially and reputationally. When it comes to cyberattacks, the greatest fear for a CEO is bad actors infiltrating customers via the products and services being delivered.

CIOs must understand how to tell the story of implementation and sell the journey to realising ROI and improving employee experience.

These fears are not always well founded, but this is precisely where CIOs must anticipate the CEO’s concerns and show exactly how the technology improves the security posture of the organisation. They must understand how to tell the story of implementation and sell the journey to realising ROI and improving employee experience, potentially changing the script when addressing different domain leads to ensure the value is communicated in different contexts. Where you can, always try to avoid overwhelming others with “techspeak”.

Invest in the right data infrastructure to deliver long-term value

If we accept that most organisations today have reached a base level of maturity when it comes to digital transformation, such as the partial migration of systems and services to the cloud and the upgrading of legacy infrastructure, the next question that needs to be answered is where to invest to deliver long-term value.

Data is the most obvious place to start for boosting productivity, security and innovation, but to really take advantage of this resource, the right data infrastructure must be in place. This doesn’t always mean investing in technology, but putting in the right data foundations, such as data governance tools and practices and improving data quality, will prepare the organisation for more advanced capabilities. There are, however, platforms that can deliver each of these capabilities.

With the Aiimi Insight Engine, for example, organisations can immediately upgrade their data posture through the intelligent labelling, classification, and enrichment of their data and information assets.

Organisations can immediately upgrade their data posture through the intelligent labelling, classification, and enrichment of their data and information assets.

By effectively bringing all data into a searchable and usable state—with the right restrictions and access controls applied to different user groups—businesses can unlock the potential of their data, pave the way for more advanced use cases and establish robust data governance frameworks that automate compliance.

The latter is particularly important, as the general awareness around data privacy and rights continues to grow, alongside an evolving regulatory environment. This has caused businesses leaders to be increasingly conscious of the requirement to provide assurance to customers and stakeholders around data management.

Evolve your data infrastructure to innovate your tech strategy

Evolving data infrastructure is essential for delivering the agility business leaders envision as the endpoint of digital transformation. The key point for CIOs to communicate, however, is that digital transformation is a journey without an end. As technology advances, the IT estate must be prepared to evolve accordingly.

With recent advances in artificial intelligence, such as Extractive AI, Generative AI, and Large Language Models (LLMs), businesses are rightly considering how and where such technologies can deliver value. The reality for most, however, is that data quality and data architecture are nowhere near where they need to be to begin training models and delivering more advanced automation, which can vastly improve the delivery of services, innovation, and security.

Even firms that we might expect to have reached a mature state in each of these areas are not immune to neglecting certain areas. Many recent high-profile cyber-attacks have been initiated by simple phishing emails. The organisation’s systems are often able to monitor what’s going on in real-time, but they have no way of stopping the attack as it unfolds.

Even firms that we might expect to have reached a mature state in each of these areas are not immune to neglecting certain areas.

Had these firms put in place AI systems able to harness advanced monitoring data and automate an immediate response, such as shutting down the system under attack, these hacks would likely fail. It’s not what we do if we get attacked, but what we do when we get attacked. It’s in these types of use cases that AI comes to life, giving the business the ability to see that something is out of the ordinary, and then use the tools to shut them down.

Again, this is only possible if data quality and architecture are where they need to be, which is the most compelling argument CIOs should be making.

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