How To Shift From CIO to CXO

As tech needs morph, the CIO needs to wear many hats.

Rahul Mahna has taken to calling the CIOs he works with “CXOs.” The  managing director of managed security services for EisnerAmper Digital, an arm of the New York City-based accounting, advisory and tax firm EisnerAmper LLP, uses the term to reflect how the CIO role has morphed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

EisnerAmper Digital Managing Director of Managed Security Services Rahul Mahna

In particular, Mahna sees the CIO and CTO roles merging. Mahna has more than 20 years of experience in information technology. Prior to joining EisnerAmper, he was a managing partner with an IT consulting firm, where he developed new business strategies to grow managed IT security services. At EisnerAmper Digital, he is responsible for cybersecurity services and providing technology-based automated and hosted cybersecurity solutions to the firm’s clients.

He spoke with StrategicCIO360 about how CIOs can adapt to the “new normal” and what to expect next.

How is the relationship between the roles of a CIO and a CTO changing?

The traditional lines between a CIO and CTO seem to be merging. Our firm has been engaged by a number of clients since the beginning of Covid that are struggling with the same issue: how to balance business and IT needs in an evolving new normal. The CIO role is increasingly becoming more interconnected with business units and, oftentimes, leading the technology initiatives. They are being asked to wear multiple hats and, at times, I dub them the “CXO” because of their versatility and the demands being placed upon them.

Where is this shift coming from?

The mandate of this change is coming from the top. CEOs are trying to manage and monitor growth—or retrenchment—in a work environment where most employees are working remotely. As employees continue to work from various locations, the need to keep them productive and secure in their operating procedures is increasing. This need has spurned an entire new set of software tools that organizations need to deploy to facilitate this change. There is a balance being struck between software, security, usability, ease and productivity. CIOs are being tasked as the gatekeeper of these needs and playing a pivotal role in organization structures as a result.

As most organizational structures continue to evolve, a CIO’s role will continue to be one of adaptation and evolution. They will increasingly become the go-to team to lead the charge for organizational adaptation due to a myriad of both controllable and uncontrollable factors.

So how should CIOs prepare for the post-pandemic new normal?

As the role of a CIO evolves, the future of the job and its description will continue to morph. I would advise a CIO to take guidance from their name itself: chief information officer. The operative word is “information.”

Correspondingly, it will fall upon the CIO to determine the systems in which the data will reside, how employees will use and interact with these systems, and how they are delivered. To summarize: follow the information in your career path.

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