Having fought for years to gain a seat on the board, with mixed success, the inevitable shift of IT infrastructure to the cloud finally presents the IT Director with a chance to fundamentally change the role and deliver true strategic innovation.

Removing the routine tasks of day to day infrastructure administration and planning for server/networking refresh releases the IT Director to focus on the real areas of technology innovation that can support business growth.

In theory IT Directors are tasked with reducing cost and improving efficiency, increasing corporate agility and minimising exposure to risk. But in reality, how many IT Director roles are actually strategic? How many UK boards regard IT as an enabler? And how many still perceive IT spend to be an operational cost and a burden on revenue at a time of economic downturn?

To be frank, how many senior Directors simply consider the IT Director as the go-to source for new iPhones or tablets?

These attitudes have to change

To achieve this change, organisations need to understand the difference innovation could and should make to the business. On one side innovation is actually about managing risk and arming the board with a clear understanding of the true risk of downtime. It means explaining the actual cost of losing access to the order processing system for three days or having no access to email.

On the other, innovation is about exploiting innovative software to improve decision-making, automate processes and ensuring the business truly uses the full functionality of applications to continually streamline and improve.

To become the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), the IT Director needs to embrace change today. To gain the trust and respect of the board, the CIO needs not only technology understanding but also the ability to present a strong strategic argument for technology investment; to deliver a clear corporate risk statement; and actively work with the organisation to meet business requirements, from streamlining processes to delivering real-time reporting.

Of course, not every IT Director will have the skills or desire to become a CIO. And for those organisations without an IT Director it is worth considering the option of a virtual CIO, an individual that can work with the business to drive IT strategy and realise corporate objectives. But for the rest, it is time to take control and actively seek the right training and coaching required to take the existing skills set to the next level.

Today just a fraction of IT Directors are empowered to take a proactive role in implementing corporate strategy. In ten years, it should be the majority. The era of the CIO has arrived: is your organisation ready to actively foster this role and realise the true value of technology innovation?