Traits Of a Digital CIO

David Chou, CIO, University of Mississippi Medical Center
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David Chou, CIO, University of Mississippi Medical Center

We are moving towards an era where every business in every vertical must adopt a digital mindset and transform their organization to be a digital business. What does that mean? A very short and concise definition of a digital business is an organization using technology both internally and externally as a competitive advantage. Gartner has their definition of digital business as the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds. What does that mean for the CIO’s role and who is the main driver for the digital strategy? CIOs are in the prime position to take on the role of leading the digital enterprise but we must shift our mindset and transition the role to be 100 percent business focus with outcomes that benefits the business while leveraging the latest technology. I will touch base on a few key items that will be required for the digital CIO.

In order for the CIO to tackle on the digital strategy it is very important for us to define the new "I" in CIO as part of our role in leading the digital strategy.

• Chief “Innovation” Officer—We must innovate new ideas utilizing the latest technology to bring efficiency and return for the organization. The innovation can be internal to the organization to bring automation and efficiencies or the innovation can be externally focused that may be revenue generating. The innovation factor may or may not be 100 percent a technology solution, but I am sure technology is involved in some way. Some examples of internal CIO innovations can be items as simple as creating internal crowd source groups to solve business problems. External innovations may be creating a separate entity or startup that leverages the solutions built by the organization that can be sold on the commercial market as a solution.

“Every enterprise is thinking about the digital disruption and we are in the perfect position to lead the transformation, if we do not take on the challenge then we will be the next CIO (Career Is Over)”

• Chief “Influence” Officer—Our main role is to influence the organization and provide the best technological solution available to solve a problem. We need to get more involved with the marketing aspect of the business to sell our ideas and solutions. CIO must view themselves as being the CEO of their business unit and run the department like a business. The majority of CIOs are typically recognized, both internally and externally, as outstanding leaders and innovators and we usually blend business and technology issues together to solve. We have all led some sort of business transformation programs with enterprise system implementations and that trend must continue at a stronger momentum to shape the enterprise agenda. Now that we have identified some of the new prerequisite for the new CIO we have to look at the bigger picture especially with the rise of the digital disruption. According to Constellation Research founder Ray Wang, an important stat is that 52percent of fortune 500 companies from year 2000 are gone due to mergers and acquisitions or bankruptcies. Digital plays a big role now that we are living in an on-demand economy where the consumers want service now without a middle man. A few examples of digital disruptive companies that we are all using are:

• AirBnB-Individuals can rent out their house or apt taking market share away from the traditional hotel chain
• Taskrabbit-Consumers can hire anyone to perform any task needed where traditionally this may go to a temporary staffing agency
• Uber-Consumers have access to rides from another individual disrupting the taxi service
• Etsy-Skilled craftsman can take their work directly to the consumers.

All of these are examples of companies taking advantage of digital strategies and the CIO must take action and responsibility in the new world because we are in the perfect position to lead the digital business strategy. Our key responsibility will be to lead the enterprise and act as the quarterback for the institution in orchestrating the digital strategy. The motto for the business will be how to do things "faster, cheaper, and better". This theme has to start within the IT department and we need to answer the following two questions:

1. Are you leveraging the latest technology such as cloud and mobile so that your IT department moves away from the traditional infrastructure and operation? Cloud first and mobile first strategy must be establish by the CIO for the enterprise as a starting point.

2. Are you establishing a digital culture and taking the lead as the change agent? Digital culture means moving away from "the way it has always been done" mentality and it is a change for the staff. CIO must educate and change the culture starting in IT with employees acquiring new skills and talent in the digital business world.

Once the CIO has tackled their internal department it will be time to embark on the journey to lead the enterprise as the business leader driving the digital strategy and define how the business will transform with the solution to implement the change. Take the time and effort to educate your peers and the senior leadership on what it really means to be digital and develop an enterprise digital culture. Every enterprise is thinking about the digital disruption and we are in the perfect position to lead the transformation, if we do not take on the challenge then we will be the next CIO (Career Is Over).