Top three Lessons for the Modern CIO
By Ryan Fay, Global CIO, ACI Specialty Benefits
People often ask, “What exactly is the role of the Modern CIO?”
What used to be a role solely focused on IT infrastructure has completely transformed into a dynamic business leader responsible for connecting technology to revenue streams and innovating for the Now Economy.
In the Now Economy, speed is the number one currency. Business operations are working 24/7/365 and the technology standard is more, better, faster. While this fast-paced and ever-changing dynamic climate makes it one of the most exciting times to be a CIO, it also brings with a unique set of modern challenges. With fierce competition in every sector, CIOs are tasked with delivering revenue-driven innovation, maximum security, efficient cost containment, and smart integrated solutions. There are some basic guiding principles and lessons learned that can help the modern CIO make a dramatic impact in today’s market.
Simple is winning
The tech culture definitely tends to chase the next big thing. There is an app for everything, platforms are feature-heavy, people are connected 24/7 and experiencing technology stress and sensory overload. When it comes to innovating in this on-demand world, it looks like simple is winning. Take FitBit for example, the last major hardware device to soar in popularity amongst mass consumers because it is simple: wear this wristband, count your steps, and be more active. Instagram is another great example of simplicity winning: take a picture, choose from seven filters, post and share. Even tech titans like Apple and Google have built empires on delivering a superior and intuitive user experience rooted in simplicity.
"With fierce competition in every sector, CIOs are tasked with delivering revenue-driven innovation, maximum security, efficient cost containment, and smart integrated solutions"
All too often, the person responsible for UI implementation is also responsible for UI design. In a time when user experience is king, it is important to invest in a UI architect, a visionary rooted in creating an intuitive user experience, across any platform, or device, built for mass consumption. For example, in the benefits technology space, there are hundreds of platforms for human resources, workforce management, healthcare benefits, all promising hundreds of features, tools, and data insights designed to improve benefits effectiveness and engagement. I have seen first-hand how overwhelming and burdensome it is on the human resource executive to understand what tools are available to them, learn how to use new technology, and implement platform trainings across teams and leadership. Repeatedly, the human resources leader will ask, “Can I just have one simple place for my employees to access all of their benefits, that doesn’t require them to remember and manage a variety of different passwords?”
People are hungry for technology that works. People need technology that serves them, is not too complicated, is consistently reliable, and ultimately makes their life or work better. So before getting excited about the latest and greatest feature for a particular device, platform, or web service, ask yourself and your team, “Are we designing this for the superuser, or are we developing this to improve the majority of people’s lives? How will this simplify people’s lives?”
Security should not be compromised.
Security is, and always will be, a top priority in the tech industry. Most modern CIOs are tasked with adhering to the highest standards of confidentiality, information security, and compliance with regulations across all IT operations and data storage. At the same time, there is mounting pressure in the now economy to deliver that more, better, faster standard, which can sometimes lead decision makers to compromise certain aspects of security. However, it only takes one minute of one day for a security issue to arise that can wreak havoc on business operations.
One cost-efficient strategy to strengthening security while reducing infrastructure costs is to utilize VM solutions. Virtual Material solutions can help meet the growing demand for mobile computing while reducing the demand for hardware and increasing speed. As the modern CIO is responsible for managing a vast network of internal communications, VM solutions can also provide containerization that streamlines security for multiple systems and applications.
Strong communication is an absolute must-have.
In many ways, the CEO is a communications leader, responsible for developing the business vision and communicating that vision to all staff and stakeholders to assure everyone is working in alignment to achieve objectives. Now, the modern CIO must be at the decision table. The CIO sits alongside the CEO, COO, CFO, and CMO to proactively build a vision for the business, and assure that the IT roadmap aligns with that big picture vision.
At many organizations, people may joke about “Oh, that’s tech speak,” or “What you said just went completely over my head,” but instead of laughing it off, the modern CIO needs to be able to clearly articulate IT challenges, advocate for IT needs, and communicate IT vision and roadmap to all leaders in the organization. The modern CIO has to be proactively asking and answering questions about scalability, cost containment, and vertical alignment across multiple departments. With clear, consistent, and effective communication, the modern CIO can help empower the organization to make the most informed decisions to drive revenue and success.