It’s fair to say that IT departments have traditionally been viewed as the ‘geek squad’ responsible for dealing with broken down printers and PCs, all the while living a separate existence to the rest of the company. New research revealed that this is no longer the case. With 86% of business leaders now recognising IT as a strategic priority, CIOs have never been more in demand – or more under pressure.

New Challenges For The ‘New’ CIO

The ‘new’ CIO is now expected to think about the ‘bigger picture’ when it comes to strategy, according to 88% of business leaders. It is not a case of keeping up to date with new technologies and staying on top of increasingly complex technological developments. IT leaders are also having to having to take a more rounded approach to IT management, in order to ensure their department is aligned with the focus of the rest of the business.

To enable this change, CIOs increasingly have had to adapt and learn new skills. They are now no longer simply required to be technical experts, but business experts, communicators and networkers. This is not an easy transition to make, particularly in light of the fact that 55% of CIOs have seen their IT and communications estate become more complicated in recent years.

Take the issue of BYOD, for instance. Research shows that employees working from their own devices are far more efficient and productive. The business benefits of BYOD are clear, but the complicated security risks it brings with it are a major concern for IT departments.

By taking greater control of their IT infrastructure and working with end-users to minimise the risk of a data breach, CIOs can balance these competing priorities and allow the company to embrace more profitable ways of working.

How Can IT Departments Move Forward?

IT departments can not afford to act alone. As well as learning to take control in order to facilitate progress throughout the business, CIOs must also now collaborate and communicate more effectively with other business functions. This is an area where many IT leaders are still struggling to adapt. Research found that over a third of non-IT directors think that their IT counterparts need to hone their communication skills and communicate more effectively with other functions.

In addition to collaborating more effectively, there are several things CIOs can do to fully embrace their new positions at the heart of business growth. By listening closely to suppliers and customers, IT leaders can look for gaps in the market that the business can address. They should always be analysing business results to increase performance, and seeking out new ways to simplify the complexity of their IT estates, by outsourcing or sharing services.

Fundamentally, these ‘new’ Heads of IT need to adopt a more business-focused mind set and learn to become innovators, always staying one step ahead of the game. By proactively looking for ways that they can use their unique skillset to help the company move towards a more profitable and efficient business, the new CIO can truly claim their newfound place at the top table of senior management.