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5 top tips for CIOs to shift from support to strategy with tech-driven solutions

According to Info-Tech Research’s CIO Priorities 2023 Survey, most CIOs see themselves at a support level of maturity where they aim to keep costs low and ensure the satisfaction of the board. 

CIOs in professional services have a unique opportunity to shift from a supporting role to a strategic one, leveraging ERP and technology-driven solutions to drive growth, improve operations, and ensure their organization seizes opportunities while protecting the business from potential pitfalls.

This shift from a support role to a strategic one requires CIOs to think differently about their responsibilities. No longer is the role of a CIO merely a gatekeeper for technology implementation. 
By aligning technology initiatives with the organization’s broader goals, they can help ensure that technology is used to drive growth and innovation. The key is to move away from the notion of technology as an isolated support function and instead embrace its transformative role in professional services.

What can CIOs focus on to get to this position?

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Manage budgets to anticipate inflation

  • CIOs require an innovative mindset that balances various competing priorities, and while IT budgets are not anticipated to drop heavily, they may need to be flexible to enable strategic business changes.
  • Embracing new technologies and working closely with trusted vendor partners, CIOs can position themselves as key drivers of transformative change. Migrating their organizations from on-premises to the Cloud provides greater flexibility, enables monthly service billing instead of fixed data center costs, and allows scalability.
  • Delivering impact outside of a direct realm of technology will also help CIOs position themselves as strategic innovators. Building trusted partnerships with solution vendors allows CIOs to help ensure their organization has the right tools to achieve its strategic objectives, and optimizing other departments, such as Finance or HR, will ultimately reduce their costs. 
  • CIOs should be able to support a customer-facing experience, such as optimizing projects for faster time to value and working with vendors who understand your industry and can advise on best practices. 
  • CIOs can also maintain integrations with key data sources and applications in the industry to prevent rework and maintenance costs.

Keep pace with AI – at the right speed for your business

  • Info-Tech Research’s CIO Priorities 2023 Survey says AI is currently the sixth most popular tech to be invested in after Cloud computing (82%), application programming interfaces (64%), workforce management solutions (44%), data lakes (36%), and next-gen cybersecurity (36%). 
  • But AI shot up to second place behind Cloud when respondents were asked what they plan to invest in in the future. And with the latest innovations in generative AI coming to market, this is only set to increase exponentially.
  • To stop being purely reactive to technology changes, CIOs must focus on leveraging the right technology to help drive business outcomes. This requires a deep understanding of the organization's goals and how technology can be used to achieve them. It means articulating the value of technology investments to the business and leading technology initiatives that align with business strategy.
  • The survey also says that the most common drivers for introducing digital solutions that harness AI are to improve efficiency, with almost seven out of ten organizations looking to increase staff on high-level tasks by automating repetitive tasks, 67% want to increase productivity without increasing headcount, and 59% want to reduce human errors.
  • Data is essential to decision-making, and CIOs must be able to use data to drive strategic decisions. To meet customer expectations in the future and keep up with the competition, CIOs will need to ensure their data pipeline is set up to be capable of training future AI models.
  • CIOs should consider working with vendors who plan to invest in AI initiatives that help employee experiences and efficiency, such as chatbots to find information quickly and AI-powered virtual assistants that can provide more efficient and personalized support to their clients.
  • Develop a data-driven culture within the organization and invest in tools that enable data analytics and visualization to deliver more targeted and personalized solutions. This will increase client satisfaction and retention, helping establish a CIO’s business impact.

Balance the challenges of security vs. employee friction

  • On one hand, organizations need to ensure that their data and systems are secure from external threats, and on the other, they need to provide employees with the necessary access to data and applications to perform their jobs efficiently.
  • Adopt a risk-based approach to cybersecurity, identify high-risk areas, use sophisticated firewalls and anti-malware software, and apply appropriate security measures for employees with access to sensitive data with multi-factor authentication.
  • Promote a culture of cybersecurity and make sure that policies and procedures are clear, concise, and easy to understand. By providing employees with the necessary training and resources, they can be empowered to recognize potential threats and take the appropriate actions to mitigate them.

Embrace collaborative hybrid working models

  • According to Info-Tech’s 2023 Survey, 90% of organizations are embracing some sort of hybrid work. 
  • CIOs in service-based organizations have a responsibility to not only facilitate this shift to remote work but also have an opportunity to ensure productivity is increased through the right Cloud-based applications that enable their work. Remote teams also need the right tools to collaborate and stay connected.
  • Well-being is also a factor, and organizations that monitor and act on well-being triggers are more likely to see better results. Employees working from home may find it challenging to differentiate between work and home life, leading to potential burnout. 
  • To combat this, CIOs should work alongside HR to develop flexible policies that offer the option to disconnect and switch off outside working hours. The right software can also support leaders across the business in tracking these warning signs, so a collaborative approach should be taken.
  • Using techniques such as organizational value chain mapping to show back-office staff how their work directly affects the customer experience helps to foster collaboration and embraces people-centric organizational change.

Don’t take your foot off the (digital) gas

  • Many organizations invested heavily in digital solutions during the pandemic, and while it's important to keep up with the latest trends and technologies to stay ahead of the competition, CIOs must also focus on gaining value from investments already made. 
  • But digital transformation is a journey, not a destination, and employee demands for better digital experiences are not slowing down.
  • Legacy systems hinder growth, innovation, and flexibility. CIOs should streamline operations by partnering with a vendor with solid industry knowledge of Cloud-based software to avoid the need for maintaining on-premises applications in-house, which can be inefficient and costly.

How Unit4 can help you shift from support to strategy

Moving from support to strategy requires a switch in mindset. The modern CIO must shift from a technical expert to a strategic leader focused on driving business outcomes through technology. 

This requires a deep understanding of the organization's goals, a data-driven mindset, a collaborative approach, and a focus on solutions that can be scaled and adapted as the organization's needs evolve.

Unit4’s People Experience suite is designed for organizations like yours. Our comprehensive solutions give you the tools you need to become the strategic CIO of tomorrow, no matter how your role evolves or grows.

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