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What is the future of the CIO? Well, those who want to innovate and disrupt will have to partner more with start-ups


The future of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) and the success of IT is dependent on the individual CIO’s ability to impact business success in the face of stagnating IT budgets and resources.

Do the words ‘innovate’, ‘disrupt’ and ‘transform sound familiar? If you’re a CIO reading this then the answer is probably yes. These powerful notions, from an IT perspective, can sound like a huge undertaking, carry with them exorbitantly expensive connotations, and by no stretch encompass a definitive set of actions. Instead they’re really quite abstract terms.

Too often CIOs are smothered with visionary words and asked to act on them. The issue here is the opposing force of a shrinking budget is often at play.

With over 600,000 customers at Nitro we deal with enterprise CIOs every day. These IT leaders are increasingly seeing CEOs and other C-suite members looking to the office of the CIO to take on more strategic projects, whilst carrying more responsibility.

The ongoing directive from the CEO to the CIO is ‘let’s make our businesses and employees more efficient’. In the current period of severe global economic uncertainty, businesses of all types and sizes will be required to become more efficient than ever before.

We’ve acquired some purposeful insights into what’s on the agendas of CIOs around the world and different solutions being implemented to lift productivity without massive investment in new systems or infrastructure upgrades – both of which require significant human capital investment.

What are the top CIO challenges?

Skills and resourcing

Key findings in the 2016 CIO Gartner research paper demonstrated that the top CIO challenge is skills and resourcing. Similarly, in our conversations with CIOs from around the globe it’s apparent that when you have less resources, and limited access to top ICT skills, you need to squeeze every ounce out of the talent that you have.

A good way to do this is for CIOs to boost the productivity of their own team by reducing the admin burden and providing simple easy to use tools that deliver an immediate productivity boost.

IT funding and budgets

Many CIO’s IT projects are large scale, involving updating legacy systems, or completely changing the way a business is doing something. These multimillion dollar projects take a lot of time, money and effort to pull off and often the benefits are measured in years, not months. CIOs need to look for some quick wins, using simple innovative technologies that can be quickly rolled out and start delivering benefits straight away.

Nitro has been able to help CIOs overcome these challenges by tackling low hanging fruit. Essentially making small investments in areas that have demonstrable benefit in the very short term and ongoing ROI in the long term.

We’ve been able to ensure in thousands of enterprise organisations, every year, that at least one low lying fruit project – that being document productivity – is delivering back to their entire knowledge workforce  in the form of 20% more productive time every week. Nitro can deliver ROI in a matter of a months. The impact is immediate and significant.

Culture, customers and organisational structure

CIOs are struggling in organisations that are slow to change or are reluctant to sign off on IT spending. To overcome these challenges they can partner with start-ups to collaborate on idea generation and development. Start-up culture is contagious and will rub off on an organisation that may have otherwise been stuck in the past.

In the coming years, CIOs must become better acquainted and actively engaged with their customers, the end user in order to create the best possible experiences.

And, if part of a CIO’s wheelhouse is to ensure that business process is optimized and efficiency is realised, buy in from the vast majority of your end user customers is essential. From the finance administration assistant through to the Director of HR – each one of those customers will need simple, familiar and consistent solutions that can have a profound impact on their busy workdays.

Why global CIOs are now investing in R&D partnerships with tech start-ups

Over the past year alone, Nitro has developed both informal and formal partnerships with some of the largest organisations in the world. These global enterprise partners are looking to leverage off our ability to innovate and disrupt.

We now are working with these organisations on R&D projects with our team of Data Scientists in San Francisco. These projects are on the bleeding edge of Natural Language Programming and Artificial Intelligence as they relate to document insights – the results of which are likely to revolutionize the way document content is extracted and interpreted across these global businesses.

This is an example of what a future focused CIO needs to consider – the ability to partner and engage on innovation projects that you would normally not do on your own – not only because of a lack of capital to spend, but also the absence  of specific talent in your organisation.

Some of the world’s best startups are keen to test-drive their investment in ideas and people – with partners like the office of the CIO.

Adam Nowiski is the Director, APAC Nitro Software

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