Unsung heroes of the digital age

Over this weekend, I’d the opportunity to chair the first meeting of CIO MENA Forum, a small group of powerful technology leaders who have come together to create a platform to share knowledge and exchange ideas. Having been privy to their conversations, I am convinced the CIO role in this region is undergoing a fundamental transformation, with so many of them already playing strategic roles in their organisations. With the advent of AI and robotics, I have heard people say mockingly that CIO now stands for ‘career is over.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. In today’s age, technology is integral to any organisation that plans to become a digital business, and the CIO has become one of the most, if not the most, critical resources in this tryst with our digital destiny.

Though it is true most of them are still bogged down by their functional responsibilities to keep the lights on, it is the only role in the whole C-suite that can straddle both the worlds – business and technology. Which is why it was so heartening to see the CIOs I’d the privilege of interacting with at this forum are driving business innovation in their enterprises, rather than doing just basic plumbing. But, do CIOs always get the recognition they deserve? Unfortunately, while their C-level colleagues are in the limelight often, technology leaders are relegated to the background. As one of my CIO friends told me in jest, “we are like super heroes, and like heroes we are alone.” I think the time has come for businesses to rethink their organisational structures, and establish a direct reporting link between CEOs and CIOs, as these are the executives who can radically transform their businesses and reach new customers or markets. On their part, CIOs now have the unenviable task of finding the right balance between driving business innovation and operational excellence. It is also time to rethink the whole perception of IT as a support role. Technology gives companies a competitive edge these days; it is truly a business-enabler. Or dare I say it, technology is the business today.

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