Lenovo Global CIO on the role's ever-changing nature

By Arthur Hu, SVP and Global CIO, Lenovo
With the role becoming ever more complex, particularly post-pandemic, Arthur Hu, SVP and Global CIO at Lenovo talks about the changing role of the CIO

A global pandemic triggered a seismic shift in the way we work, accelerating digital transformation and innovation. Coupled with a more sophisticated security threat landscape, the role of the CIO has dramatically evolved and expanded over the last two years. 

If business were an orchestra, the CIO would be the conductor of information technology, operation, and executive strategy, ensuring harmonies among the various sources of intelligence. They align and integrate business objectives and resources in pursuit of growth and new opportunities. 

The CIO’s job is increasingly evolving into a more complex role. They need to tackle obstacles that come with expanding digital capabilities while implementing dynamic strategies that improve data collection and protection. 

An ever-growing list of responsibilities

Lenovo’s recent global CIO study revealed a staggering 90% of CIOs report their roles and responsibilities have expanded greatly beyond managing technology. Their influence today extends to areas such as ESG, diversity, equity and inclusion, HR and talent acquisition and even sales and marketing.

Today, many CIOs find themselves in the ‘mission control’ seat of their organizations. The majority (88%) believe their role is the most critical component of their company’s continued operation and 77% believe their performance is more important to the success of their organization than the work of other C-suite roles.

Communicating effectively is more important than ever. Successfully conveying the tech strategy to internal stakeholders and partners is as important as the implementating the strategy itself. In addition, CIOs can facilitate communication across the enterprise. They are uniquely positioned to see the bigger picture across the entire organization, transcending departmental silos. Acting as a critical hub, CIOs can represent the needs of different parts of the business, which is especially important when rapid changes need to be implemented.

Accelerating digital transformation

The promotion of the CIO to ‘mission control’ was well underway even pre-pandemic. Digital disruption and emerging technologies were already providing CIOs with more opportunities to innovate internally. By extension, they were called upon to hone their organization’s competitive edge and uplift the customer and employee experience, with over 72% of large businesses and 64% of medium-sized business already having an online and physical presence pre-pandemic.

The rise of remote work during the pandemic accelerated this transformation: 82% said the CIO role has become more challenging compared to two years ago, as they confront a vast array of new challenges, from the increasing use of AI and automation to talent acquisition among a global, remote workforce. Some of the most pressing challenges cited in Lenovo’s study include data privacy and security (66%), cybersecurity and ransomware (66%) and keeping up with technological change (65%).

All of this means that today’s CIOs are under intense pressure to perform and deliver results according to critical business metrics, like creating new business opportunities and revenue streams.

One way CIOs can tackle these challenges is to ensure their organization’s tech stack is lean and nimble enough to handle complex transformation projects and respond quickly to external threats. In a digitized environment, an unnecessary delay at one discreet point can impact all areas of internal operations.

During the pandemic, organizations that were agile and flexible were able to minimize disruptions and experienced an almost seamless migration to remote work. This demonstrated the power of scalability as it enables companies to flex when they need to, responding quickly to sudden organizational demands or external threats while mitigating risk.

Easing the burden with EaaS

Tech vendors can help CIOs manage their priorities by offering an Everything as a Service (EaaS) model for IT hardware, software and services, providing companies of all sizes operational and technological flexibility. This is especially important as companies strive to deliver innovation and steady growth in the face of economic headwinds.

The EaaS model also frees in-house teams from handling routine and tedious IT processes and infrastructure maintenance. Instead, they can focus on higher-value business initiatives. Simply put, CIOs can spend their time innovating, not managing IT. Recognizing this, if given the opportunity to improve efficiency, 57% of CIOs say they would replace half or more of their company’s current technology. Nearly all (92%) would consider adding new EaaS offerings over the next two years.

Businesses could also benefit from greater cost efficiency, as they only pay for what they need. 

By outsourcing infrastructure management to vendors, organizations are shifting from a solely Capital Expense (CAPEX) approach to IT operations, which requires substantial up-front investments to purchase, maintain and upgrade assets. Through working with third parties and utilizing EaaS models, CIOs can now fund these as part of their Operating Expense (OPEX) to support the day-to-day business needs. Finance departments are then able to free up money for other key projects and investments across the business.  

The road ahead

CIOs will have to move beyond just “managing” IT and instead towards driving new business model exploration, leading the digital transformation, creating tangible outcomes and value. The CIO of the future will be required to combine business and technical knowledge, along with evangelism and leadership abilities that can be used to drive strategic corporate growth plans and increase market opportunities.

The skill sets that were once needed to manage information will also continue to change. Partnering with tech vendors that offer flexible solutions will give the modern CIO tools to succeed.

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