CIO role: 5 key opportunities for IT leaders in 2022

What leadership challenges and opportunities are CIOs looking forward to in the coming year? We asked five prominent execs for their insights – here's what they had to say
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It’s hard to believe, but it wasn’t long ago that CIOs were fighting for their “seat at the table” for important business decisions. Now CIOs are seen as advisors to peers across the business, and leading drivers of business innovation. How will the role of the CIO continue to evolve to rise to the challenges of the year ahead? 

We asked CIOs who recently won the 2021 St. Louis CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards what leadership opportunities they are most excited about in 2022 and beyond. The awards were presented by the St. Louis CIO Leadership Association, a professional community that annually recognizes CIOs for their excellence in technology leadership.

From designing the future of work to fighting burnout, their answers offer insight into five key opportunities for CIOs right now.

Constant change required

Large Enterprise CIO of the Year

Frank Laquinta

Frank LaQuinta, CIO, Edward Jones: The role of CIO demands both evolution and revolution to meet the changing market conditions and opportunities faced each day. In addition to leading from out in front with a holistic technology and digital vision, the CIO must also be a business leader who places the client and colleague experience at the forefront; someone who inspires confidence and trust; and most importantly, someone who creates the conditions for success by empowering others.

At Edward Jones, we are in the midst of an ambitious transformational journey to create extraordinary experiences and capabilities in support of serving our clients in a human-centered, complete way. We are continuing the momentum that we have created to lead the industry as we partner for positive impact to improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society.

[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

Designing the future of work

Enterprise CIO of the Year

Bhavani Amirthalingham

Bhavani Amirthalingam, SVP & Chief Digital Information Officer, Ameren: As new norms of working in a hybrid world are being established, the role of the CIO will be key in advancing automation, improving productivity, and driving digital dexterity across the enterprise. Leading cross-functional teams and upskilling beyond the technology organization will be key to enabling new ways of working in 2022 and beyond. Developing, retaining, and attracting a diverse, talented workforce and managing evolving cybersecurity and data privacy risks will be key to delivering strategic business outcomes.

As I look ahead, enabling a cleaner, more reliable, affordable, and secure grid while driving an enhanced customer experience by leveraging cloud, strengthening cybersecurity, and integrating digital and operational grid technology is most exciting. The opportunity to integrate technology talent into operations and operational talent into technology roles will enable the future of work and help organizations not just survive but thrive in a disruptive new normal. The continued evolution and maturity of data, analytics, and intelligent automation will further provide opportunities to evolve operating models and how we lead better business and customer outcomes.

Fighting burnout

Large Corporate CIO of the Year

John Meister

John Meister, SVP & CIO, Panera Bread: For most IT leaders, the pace in 2022 will continue to be intense. For almost all of our business projects, there is now a technology component, which means the intensity for IT will be as high or higher than most business units. The challenge for most CIOs is to help our teams focus with prioritization and resource allocation.

One particularly useful exercise we have adopted is to introduce the technology resources into the business problem identification and solution discussion earlier. We can then introduce a solution with the “big picture” of what the business is trying to accomplish in mind. Having a collaborative team of technology and business resources looking at a problem together leads to more creative solutions, built more efficiently.

To avoid burnout, it is often necessary to show the team, with extra amounts of appreciation, how much has been accomplished after solutions are put into place. By passing on the sense of accomplishment and giving them all the credit, we can hopefully stave off some of the continued burnout that seems to be abundant with our increased pace in the pandemic.

[ More tips on fighting burnout: Burnout busters: 7 ways leaders can protect and energize teams ]

Business enablement through innovation

Corporate CIO of the Year

Jim Cavellier

Jim Cavellier, EVP & CIO, Cass Information Systems: I believe the role of the CIO will focus more than ever on “business enablement” through technology innovation. The CIO will be seen as a business leader, strategist, and enabler first and foremost, with expertise in technology following thereafter. In addition, the technology organization will lead the organization in the development of best practices and methods for delivering operational excellence in the new/permanent remote work environment.

Transformational leadership

Healthcare CIO of the Year

Jerry Fox

Jerry Fox, SVP, CIO & CDO, BJC Healthcare: The role of the CIO will continue to elevate beyond managing IT to leveraging technology as a core driver of business value. In healthcare, many activities traditionally performed on paper, on the phone, or in-person are now documented and/or performed digitally. New technologies are at the center of new care delivery models that are enabling personalized healthcare experiences, expanding care delivery markets, and improving clinical outcomes. Modular platforms and flexible data architectures are no longer optional. Adoption of cloud infrastructure has dramatically accelerated and expanded in reaction to the challenges of the pandemic and will continue to do so in support of initiatives that generate business impact.

I am delighted by the amplified calling for the CIO to serve as a business transformation leader that infuses technology into every strategy while revolutionizing an IT culture that supports the demands of top technology talent. With growing recognition that technology underpins the entire business model, our technology teams are now positioned to lead initiatives that deliver operational excellence and growth across all capabilities within our healthcare delivery system.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  

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