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February 4, 2016 - 10:00am

Original Article on Forbes.comArticle written by Bob Evans, senior vice president, communications for Oracle.

The toughest job in corporate America, says Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, is the CIO’s. While I agree with Hurd’s assessment, I also believe that business-minded, forward-looking CIOs have an incredible opportunity to play leading roles in the digital/physical revolution that is transforming every facet of our lives.

CIOs of the world, it’s time to jump into this revolution fearlessly and joyfully because your backgrounds, your perspectives, your expertise, and your imaginations are needed desperately by your companies as they attempt to engage deeply in this richly blended digital/physical mix—or risk slipping into a nonstop decline marked by unfixable difficulties, growing irrelevance, and, ultimately, oblivion.

As Oracle CIO Mark Sunday says, “This is the most challenging time in history to be a CIO, because in order to survive, organizations need to embrace new technologies at an unparalleled pace. But by the same token, CIOs have never had a better opportunity to add value to their organizations—if they embrace the challenge.”

Just take a look at these five brief examples from mainstream industries:

Personal Health: “Wearable devices and engagement through mobile health apps represent the future—not just of the research of diseases, but of medicine…. I estimate that in 5 to 10 years, accurate information about your health will exist more outside the health system than inside the health system.” —Dr. Eric Schadt, Founding Director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and and Multiscale Biology, Mount Sinai Health System

Insurance: AIG teams are now testing the use of drones to collect images during a disaster in order to settle customer claims faster. And, it’s also selling drone insurance, for companies using drones as part of their businesses.

Agriculture: In perhaps the biggest shift, Monsanto is moving into computing…big data has already transformed everything from retail logistics to dating; Monsanto believes it can do the same for farming.

Industrial: “I’m going to invest in how to take data off a locomotive and process it in a way that can help my railroad customers get an extra mile of productivity out of that vehicle.” —Jim Fowler, CIO, GE

Music: Once a commodity bought and sold in stores, music is now an omnipresent utility invoked via spoken-word commands. In response to the simple command “play,” an algorithmic DJ opens a blended set of songs, incorporating information about your location, your recent activities, and your historical preferences—complemented by biofeedback from your implanted smartchip. (OK, this one hasn’t happened yet—but it’s a striking look just over the horizon.)

In this bracing context, welcome to Oracle’s fourth annual list of the major challenges and opportunities global CIOs will face in the coming year. In last year’s prognostication, we noted, “Throughout 2014, the CIO profession was subjected to a baffling series of apocalyptic forecasts and dire predictions that have proven to be laughably wrong,” and asked, “Where did all these distortions and misperceptions about the stewards of IT strategy and execution come from?”

And as we head into 2016, I have to say that those prophets of doom, who just 12 to 18 months ago were so doggedly insistent that CIOs were about to take permanent residence next to the Dodo, have changed their tunes, rewritten their histories, and realized that the vectors of profound change in today’s global economy—cloud computing, the Internet of Things, mobile everywhere, social lifestyles blending with social commerce, and the blurring of enterprise tech and personal tech—point to nothing but a greatly enriched future for smart and aggressive CIOs.

From our perspective, we see that future coalescing around four key activities or attributes that world-class CIOs are embracing:

  • Creators of a new cultural outlook of aggressive possibilities, of new products and services, and of new capabilities, all of which are essential building blocks in their company’s digital transformation;
  • Evangelists for cloud computing and its transformative potential, for social business, for data-driven decision-making, and for digital-first thinking throughout the organization;
  • Transformers of corporate culture as IT pivots from reactive responder to aggressive innovator; from “you’ll take what we give you” to “we’ll accelerate and enhance your initiatives”; and from analog paper-based processes to digital workflows and collaborative approaches driven by data;
  • Accelerators of everything from product development to procurement, and from decision-making to deployment of resources as the epochal shift to cloud computing liberates huge chunks of IT budgets and paves the way for truly customer-centric business.

We’ve built our Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2016 around those four core attributes of the culture-warrior CIO—one who’s also a transformative advocate for customers. But before we present our new list, here’s a look back at our Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2015, upon which our 2016 list builds:

[collapse collapsed title=Click to Open Top 10 Strategic Issues for 2015]

The Business Transformer

1) Be the joyful digital disruptor, not the hesitant and befuddled digital disruptee. (Editor’s note: There’s no better example than GE CIO Jim Fowler, cited above.)

2) Accelerate insights, decision-making, and operations: function as the Chief Acceleration Officer. (Editor’s note: Marriott International provides multiple examples of how technology can transform companies in any industry.)

3) Forge strategic and deep relationships with the CMO, CHRO, CFO, and beyond.

The Customer Expert and Advocate
4) Harness the enterprisewide power and potential of customer-centric big data and analytics. (Editor’s note: Check out this wonderful example from Randstad France, which is using analytics to revolutionize the recruitment and job placement market.)

5) Unlock insights and capabilities that let every employee contribute to customer loyalty. (Editor’s note: Look at how Club Med is using digital technology to enhance an absolutely analog experience, and to help its “genteel organizers” make vacations even more fun.)

The Technology Visionary

6) Modernize and simplify: Exploit cloud computing to help achieve each item on this list. (Editor’s note: The Monsanto example above speaks volumes about the potential here.)

7) Reimagine your security strategy as globalization and mobility redefine privacy and risk.

The Culture Warrior

8) Be the strategic evangelist for turning social from tactical sidelight to strategic growth engine.

9) Embrace new HCM outlooks and tools to make your department — and your entire company — a high-demand destination for world-class talent. (Editor’s note: Check out the modern approach to recruiting used by North Shore-LIJ, one of the largest healthcare systems in the US.)

10) Transform the IT organization and reputation from no to yes, from SLAs to revenue growth, from obstacle to accelerator, from passive to opportunistic.


And now we present our:

Top 10 Strategic CIO Issues for 2016

1. Create New Revenue Streams. The digitization of our everyday lives opens up huge possibilities for IT-inspired innovation in new products, new services, new data-as-a-product offerings, and other innovations that enhance customer engagement while also boosting revenue.

2. Create a New Can-Do Culture. Cloud computing and the ongoing explosion of social/mobile services offer CIOs superb building blocks for demonstrating to business units around the world that the IT organization has permanently shed its “Dr. No” persona, with the initials “IT” now representing what the CIO’s team really stands for: innovation/transformation.

3. Create Dazzling—and Relevant—New Apps. What percentage of the IT organization is now focused on building customer-centric apps? How does that figure compare to last year? How much will it grow in 2016? World-class CIOs will find ways to transform their teams into engines of customer engagement, with app creation at the center.

4. Evangelize the Business Benefits of Cloud Computing. Are you talking to the CMO about SOA, or about the lifetime value of customers? In the cloud, product-development cycle times are shorter, customer trends can be spotted more quickly, top performers can cocreate career-development plans, and the CFO can stop being a historian. Are you telling these stories clearly and passionately?

5. Evangelize the Power of Digital Business. As GE CIO Jim Fowler noted above, the marriage of digital capabilities with traditional products and services opens up big possibilities for creating new value for customers—new insights into how products are performing, which new services are most profitable, where to promote certain products at certain times, and which high-performing people are at risk of leaving.

6. Transform Traditional Ideas/Silos of “What We Do.” Per the opening quotation of this article, wearable tech is starting to turn the medical field upside down, and we’re seeing digitally activated shelves in retail, intelligent sensors revolutionizing preventive maintenance, ingestible medications, driverless cars, smart clothing, and much more. How can the CIO disrupt traditional thinking within her company by showcasing what already is, as well as what is possible?

7. Transform Customer Engagement. A while back, the newly named CIO of one of Asia’s leading airlines described his company’s eye-popping realization that top customers desired zero human interaction until they were actually on the plane. What customers really want is often greatly at odds with what we as businesses are accustomed to—or comfortable—delivering. In 2016, CIOs must help lead the way in bridging this gap and driving customer-centric engagements.

8. Transform Decision-Making from Gut-Level to Data-Driven. Think of the astonishing volumes of data residing within large organizations—and think how few of those valuable assets are being exploited to enhance the decision-making ability of employees at all levels of the company. CIOs have a perfect opportunity to work with business leaders to unlock those data assets and put them to work in delivering real-world, real-time insights that create success for the business, for customers, and for employees.

9. Accelerate the Reversal of the 80/20 Budget Trap via Cloud Computing. Before cloud computing, the #1 enemy of the CIO was the economic reality that about 80% of his IT budget would be consumed by low-value maintenance and integration. Because cloud computing pushes that burden over to cloud vendors, CIOs can liberate huge portions of their budgets and reallocate them to projects centered on growth and customer engagement. The faster this happens, the better.

10. Accelerate Deployment of World-Class Cybersecurity. The traditional IT operating model was a security nightmare because IT environments were made up of thousands of disparate components cobbled together, with each piece requiring its own unique security protocols. In the cloud, CIOs have the opportunity to flip that model from thousands of vulnerabilities to a single, unified, top-to-bottom cybersecurity stack where the cloud vendor shoulders that burden. (Oracle believes security has to be built in at every layer of the cloud stack, and that’s become a competitive differentiator for Oracle Cloud.) And remember, cybersecurity is a journey, not a destination. As Sunday has said, “your cybersecurity capabilities need to evolve continuously in order to meet an ever-more sophisticated and ever-evolving threat landscape. Having world-class cybersecurity means having the ability to detect and remediate today’s threats, while maintaining the capability to morph to meet the needs of tomorrow.”

And as 2016 looms, best wishes to all you CIOs out there for a year filled with achievement, excitement, engagement, and success. I hope it’s a year in which you get to flex those muscles that let you create, evangelize, transform, and accelerate in ways that dazzle and delight your customers, and bring opportunities and success to you and your colleagues. As Christopher Lochhead says, “Knock ‘em alive!”

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