The Enterprisers Project's 8th anniversary: What's next for CIO role?

We're turning eight years old, as our community of CIOs and IT leaders continue to navigate the pandemic. You've shared tough lessons learned through it all - and found upsides in what's next
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At the Enterprisers Project, we have a clear mission: Help CIOs and IT leaders solve problems. That means not only the technology challenges but also the leadership and career varieties. Our IT leadership community succeeds largely because of all your generosity – in sharing real-world lessons learned with your peers. And what unparalleled lessons they were in 2021.

IT leaders and teams have proved their mettle in driving transformation at previously unthinkable speeds.

As we moved into year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, CIOs took a hard look around and saw some upsides: Digital transformation has never been more core to organizational success. And IT leaders and teams have proved their mettle in driving transformation at previously unthinkable speeds.

For CIOs, the skill set that really stood out in 2021 was emotional intelligence. Are you the kind of leader people rally around, even during a pandemic? Are you the kind of leader who enables rapid innovation? You need to be the former before the latter can happen.

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

CIOs take on an expanded role

“The role of the CIO is changing, and I personally welcome the change,” Hans Brown, Head of Enterprise Innovation and Chief Information Officer for Corporate Technology at BNY Mellon, recently told us. “CIOs are pivoting away from pure technology to a role that looks to be at the confluence of client, technology, and business. CIOs do not create all innovation – they enable an organization to unleash it.”

Brown’s strategy for doing just that includes priorities ranging from education to infrastructure. “Coaches empower others by leveraging the benefits that are available to them for others. Within our organization, technology leadership has built a world-class infrastructure that is cloud-native, scalable, resilient, and evergreen. This infrastructure empowers the entire organization, allowing all the divisions in our company to easily create new solutions that address the questions that our clients and the market are asking,” Brown notes.

Hybrid work challenges

We heard repeatedly in 2021 about your desire to rise to hybrid workplace challenges - both technology and people-related. As many organizations move into a reality that blends office and remote work, they’re counting on IT to provide tooling, resiliency, and security.

Hybrid work also affects leadership style: Transparency ranks as a top priority for hybrid team leaders seeking to build trust and productivity. “Leaders need to be transparent on a shared set of objectives and how they are measuring employee productivity,” as Thomas Phelps, CIO at Laserfiche, recently told us. “For me, it’s not about how many hours you work or when you were last online.” For many teams, this meant new OKRs in 2021 - and more work lies ahead as groups grapple with how to set goals and track progress transparently.

[ Want a primer on hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? Read also: Hybrid work: 4 best practices for fairness. ]

Silver linings

Amidst the leadership challenges, we heard from many CIOs that they and their teams found some silver linings. Yes, Zoom fatigue is real, but for some people, speaking up on a Zoom call proved easier than speaking up in a physical meeting room. That’s a win when you hear from a more diverse set of voices, Onyeka Nchege, SVP, Chief Information Officer for Novant Health, recently told us.

"Good coaching is about speaking less and listening more."

“This post-pandemic world has reminded me that good coaching is about speaking less and listening more,” Nchege notes. “Sometimes that’s tough when you want to impart knowledge onto others. But every moment doesn’t need to be a teaching moment – sometimes people just want you to listen.” He also found new ways to pay knowledge forward to his team.

Other CIOs enjoyed seeing a deeper level of trust develop inside their teams and throughout the organization. 

As noted by Elizabeth Hackenson, CIO, Schneider Electric, “A crisis provides an opportunity for people to be at their best and we continue to see this. We implemented major programs remotely for the first time and, with the recent resurgence of COVID-19 in India, we immediately knew how to respond without the daily [leadership] calls. At the core of this bonding was the newly found trust that we must continue to maintain.”

Talent strategy adjustments

Looking ahead, many CIOs have found that the pandemic lessons learned thus far have also changed their talent strategies. You need a diverse, high-EQ team around you at times like these. What’s more, “the great resignation” currently underway means recruitment and retention have never been more important. CIOs learned that remote work opens new talent pools – and that some new talent may be hiding in plain sight. Cross-functional work can surface it.

CIOs should “consider the talent already in place and challenge them with new opportunities,” Dow CIO and CDO Melanie Kalmar recently told us. “Because we’ve established digital teams within each of our business units, we’ve had marketing, sales, and R&D professionals get interested and excited about technology, and we’ve brought them into the IT organization by creating new 'hybrid roles.' It’s fun to see people follow their passion and rewarding to nurture them along the way. If you aren’t opening the doors within your organization, you could miss out on the opportunity to tap into an engaged, enthusiastic pool of talent.”

How can we do more for you?

As you continue to navigate the challenges of digital transformation, hybrid workplaces, and IT talent development, we’ll be here, sharing the latest lessons from your peers. Keep up by subscribing to our weekly newsletter or consider sharing your knowledge by contributing an article.

We’d also like to improve our value to you: Please consider sharing your feedback in our 2021 reader survey.

Finally to everyone in our community of CIOs, IT leaders, and subject matter experts who came here to pay much wisdom - and empathy - forward in 2021: Thank you.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Laurianne McLaughlin is Content Director for The Enterprisers Project, delivering analysis and advice for the IT leadership community. Previously, she served as Editor-in-Chief at InformationWeek.com and Managing Editor at CIO.com. 

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