Chief Inspiration Officer? How The CIO Role Is Changing

Today’s CIOs need to be great communicators, says Friedman CIO Don Logan.

There’s been a lot of change in the CIO role since Don Logan first held that post in the 1990s. Today, as CIO of Friedman LLP, a New York City-based firm that offers accounting, tax and business consulting to public and private companies across the country and internationally, he both handles those demands within Friedman and helps other companies navigate the changing role of the CIO.

We spoke with Logan about what’s new in the world of CIOs, what’s ahead and why communication is the key to success.

What is the role of the CIO in supporting new business models?

Although the role has changed over the years, the core duties have not. Technology is a constantly moving target that any experienced CIO should be well prepared for.

At the same time, CIOs have been tasked with many different roles that continue to expand. The “I” in CIO today refers to information but can also be insight, intelligence, integrity, involvement, innovation, identity, integration—even chief inspiration officer.

Many CIOs today are involved in the digital transformation of their companies. What are the keys to success in that area?

CIOs are tasked with driving the company forward and using the available tools to enable that. It’s important to have a proper strategic plan in place because this gives the CIO direction and goals. Communication with all areas within a company is critical. The CIO must be seen as a positive influence and motivation to do—and be—better.

Risk and cybersecurity are another critical area. What are the best practices for CIOs?

The CIO should be nimble with a multipronged methodology to reduce risk and increase cybersecurity presence. Connecting with the IT team, cyber team and outside parties is extremely important. Understanding your systems, connections, data, end users and how you do business is another facet of the approach that needs to be taken into account. It is prudent to get in the habit of constantly educating your IT staff, all employees and even oneself—all being equally important.

Having the systems and controls in place to assess and reduce risk isn’t the only goal. You must have governance, policies and procedures in place that need to be enforced, updated and tested. More so than ever, this is extremely important as the majority of workforces have been operating remotely.

How should CIOs use technology to support broad business objectives?

While technology is certainly an enabler of objectives, all the technology in the world is only as good as its drivers, meaning all the people involved. It is important to identify your weaknesses and strengths concerning your team, department, office and the company as a whole. In order to achieve the business objectives, the easier you are able to make it for the end user, the more fluid the technology and infrastructure will be.

How is this job changing, and how do you think it will continue to evolve?

As technology changes, the CIO changes with all the advancements. While maintaining some core functions of a traditional CIO, the next iteration of the profession will be leveraging data and the tools to handle the many different hats this role warrants. The remote worker is now a reality for the majority and the CIO has to stay engaged and focused with that in mind. 

The CIO role when I first started in the 1990s was purely technology driven and was typically contained to the IT department. Since then, the CIO has become a much more valued and involved role. Nowadays it isn’t unusual for the CIO to be involved in executive meetings and strategy sessions. The role now offers insight and innovations to accomplish what was thought to be either laborious or solely internal technology. As technology advanced, so did the CIO and the role. Instead of working on servers, routers and phone systems, it’s all about strategy, analytics and cloud infrastructure. 

Looking at the new trends with AI, machine learning and quantum computing, we can bet that the future is going to be focusing on smarter, highly accurate and faster solutions. The CIO will need to be a “chief dot connector” and really put the “information” in the CIO title to task. CIOs will be the key operator within the company—if he or she isn’t already.

What comes next in business through the lens of the CIO job?

The CIO role will continue to evolve into a business-driven leader that needs to be prepared for the unknown and be able to adapt to new directions. Data analytics and AI are going to be at the core of the CIO. A much more analytical and strategic CIO is going to be entrenched in the next evolution for this role.

The CIO also has an added layer of complexity with the remote workforce, which means more ground to cover and adjusting to these changes quickly. It will not just be being the leader of the technology team, the CIO is going to be tasked with business objectives unlike before, meaning to assist with company strategies and finances typically outside of the technology realm.

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