Select Page

Since my last post, Reflections on The Digital Directorseveral conversations have focused on who should lead a Digital Transformation, with the CIO as the logical front-runner.  

While this makes a lot of sense, the conversations reminded me of a statement by a Director who assisted in my book research. He said, “Unfortunately, there are a lot of IT or former IT managers who don’t know much about the future digital world”.  

It got me thinking: what are the behaviours a CIO must demonstrate to show they are ready to lead your digital transformation? I came up with the following five:

  • Encouraging a changing sphere of control. A digital business requires the IT department to be part of an ecosystem that delivers products and services, enabling companies to quickly sense and respond to changing market conditions. A CIO needs to support empowering other business units to make decisions that traditionally were the realm of the IT department.  
  • Changing focus from vertical to horizontal. Digital transformation is a multidisciplinary endeavour that affects the entire organisation, including business processes, culture, workflows, and customer experiences. While many CIOs will say they acknowledge this, often their behaviour places IT operations and infrastructure as their primary focus, relegating the broader business implications as a secondary consideration.
  • Changing from driver to navigator. Digital transformation is fundamentally about improving customer experiences, which requires a deep understanding of customer needs, behaviours, and preferences. Traditional CIOs might need more experience prioritising customer-centricity and aligning technology investments to enhance customer value.
  • Accepting increased risk. Traditional CIOs typically prioritise stability and reliability in their IT operations. While important, this risk-averse mindset can impede the necessary experimentation and calculated risk-taking that drives digital transformation. Successful digital initiatives often involve stepping out of comfort zones, embracing uncertainty, and fostering a culture that tolerates failure and learning from it.
  • Being comfortable leading complex change.  Digital transformation involves significant internal and external change, including new ways of working, redefining job roles, cultural shifts, and customer experiences. Effectively managing complex change requires strong leadership, stakeholder engagement, and the ability to drive adoption across your organisation and the community you serve.

Digital transformation demands a different set of skills, mindsets, and perspectives. Before jumping to the logical decision to appoint your CIO as your head of Digital Transformation, check that they are demonstrating the behaviours that will be required.