Security and Maturity: Today’s CIOs Take Center Stage

FrogViews are Leapfrog’s top takeaways from the most informative articles on IT trends.

About a decade ago, the CIO’s main goal was to oversee a team to manage the technology of a company and control costs. Annual IT initiatives often included finding ways to take something expensive — existing technology — and make it cheaper so that the budget could be used for other initiatives. Innovating or delivering more business value wasn’t usually part of the job description.

“Previously, a C-level leader would ask the CIO to help build and maintain the technology for a new mobile app for the business. The CIO would find the developer, convey the project’s specs, and then deliver the app to sales and marketing so they could use it and make it effective,” says Emmett Hawkins, CTO of Leapfrog Services.

“This got CIOs off easy because they only had to deliver on the scope of the projects, not on the value it was intended to deliver. This is no longer the case.”

The CIO.com article Key IT initiatives reshape the CIO agenda makes it clear that the modern CIO is no longer an order-taker and, instead, is a strategic member of the leadership team. The article explains that today’s CIO is tasked with helping lead the business forward with technology solutions that can grow the business and position it for success.

They often accomplish this by optimizing what the company has already bought and ensuring that the IT spend delivers an actual return on investment.

Security tops the ROI list

CIO.com writes:

  • Leadership has become more security aware and, with that, more enthusiastic supporters of security-related initiatives. A majority of CIOs responding to CIO.com’s annual State of the CIO survey said they were focusing on such initiatives.
  • When asked, “Which areas do you anticipate your involvement increasing over the next year?”, 70% of CIOs put cybersecurity, making it the most universal area of interest by a wide margin.
  • Other top 10 initiatives that see increased CIO involvement include the related security areas of data privacy, compliance, and risk management.

Digital and security initiatives are tied to monetary, growth, or efficiency goals — the CIO has accountability that the initiatives need to be completed and effective.

Optimizing means maturing, and vice versa

Asking if the company is getting value out of its technology investments — and trying to squeeze more value out of those investments — is part of the leveling-up process.

Today’s CIO agenda has no room for shiny-object syndrome.

“While it’s easy to get caught up in finding and buying the right product to solve a problem, it’s also easy to ignore the fact that the company doesn’t have the staff to run it and probably never will,” says Hawkins. And once the company trains employees on the needed skills, the employees instantly become more marketable, exacerbating the situation during the tech-talent shortage.

CIO.com says to capture value from tools already in play, teams are focusing on specific areas, such as networking. Many IT departments are moving to a “platform-led IT operating model” where there’s a team to run each platform — those teams work closely with the business departments using those platforms.

“CIOs are also charged with shutting down things that are boondoggles,” Hawkins says. “Even if the company supported the CIO’s decision to invest in a cool cloud data analytics solution, the CIO is just as responsible for acknowledging that it’s not going to be effective and they need to stop putting money into that project.”

Institutional knowledge and combined competencies

The article Then and now: How the CIO role has evolved makes the point that CIOs recently proved their value through business continuity in response to the pandemic — and are under a new spotlight as a result. It was a chance to show off their multiple competencies.

According to Kristi Lamar, Managing Director and U.S. leader for Women in Technology at Deloitte, CIO responsibilities encompass four major areas:

  • The operator: keeps the lights on
  • The technologist: evangelizes new tech capabilities
  • The strategist: partners with the business
  • The catalyst: leads disruptive change to how an organization works

Leapfrog’s Hawkins would add one more area — The alchemist: finds cost savings to convert into new worthwhile technologies.

Other needed CIO competencies? Individual determination and sensitivity, according to a Gartner survey of its CIO Research Circle.

Delivering technology value

Leapfrog vigorously supports the CIO.com article’s assertion that today’s focus needs to be more on optimizing the use of technologies to deliver measurable value than just delivering the technologies themselves.

The shift in emphasis is also a shift in mindset — yes, that may be a phenomenal technology tool. But can we afford it, run it, and use it effectively to meet our business objective?

Leapfrog has been partnering with clients for 25 years to help them leverage IT to meet their business goals — we’re an MSP, MSSP, and a CyberRisk Management company. At the core of what we do is understand each client’s business and budget so we can build, optimize, and run the technology and security it needs to generate the most value for its stakeholders. Please get in touch with us if you want to learn more.