CIOs Emerge As A Force For Creative Change

The emergence of the global digital economy—and the creative use of technology to support it—has upended traditional business models.

It has also transformed the chief information officer (CIO) role beyond the primary responsibility of maintaining hardware, software, applications, security, and compliance. CIOs now also drive the modernisation of platforms to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), voice, data, and cloud solutions—helping to drive the business forward and make possible innovative customer experiences.

As a result, CIOs need to be more creative than ever to reflect this shift, said Vishy Narayanan, chief digital and information officer at accounting giant PwC ANZ.

“In times of rapid technology disruption, the CIO needs to be a humanistic, creative technologist, and these qualities will become even more critical for the role moving forward,” he said. Narayanan said his role has evolved from a creative standpoint, from upskilling the company’s entire workforce so that everyone has some level of digital and data proficiency, to the use of gamification in digital learning.

“PwC has also developed a ‘Digital Fitness Assessment’ app, which includes a 15-minute test that assesses an employee’s ‘digital fitness’ and provides opportunities to boost their score through further learning,” Naryanan said. “This has been instrumental in fast-tracking adoption of our digital strategy at scale.”

According to John Hanna, group CIO and director of operations at Bauer Media Group ANZ, CIOs are driving creativity across the enterprise, and his role has evolved into more of an art than a science.

“This requires an ability to navigate through the complexity, ambiguity, and political nuances of an organisation, craft a compelling digital trajectory, and orchestrate its execution to achieve the necessary transformation,” Hanna said.

At The Heart Of Change

One of the more visible changes in the CIO role is its emergence from the backroom to the epicentre of the strategic decision-making process.

“In my role I need to be an innovator and sometimes a growth driver,” said Goutam Datta, chief information and digital officer at Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance. “As this role evolves from execution-led to solution provider, I am presented with an opportunity to use creativity to meet the needs of the business and customer.”

Datta pointed to the recent launch of Bajaj Allianz Life’s WhatsApp service, an initiative designed to simplify correspondence and meet customers on the tools they already use to communicate.

“While WhatsApp for Business is not new, it was a way for us to offer the most comprehensive services to our customers,” Datta said. “We have enhanced our offerings by integrating both our AI-enabled chatbot BOING and a Live Chat assistance to resolve customer queries.”

Hanna agreed that the CIO role has changed significantly over the past decade, and those who have succeeded have been willing to craft their own style of leadership.

“CIOs are increasingly being regarded as trusted thought leaders and advisers who can successfully bring about transformational change from a digital perspective,” Hanna said. “The CIO has become the great digital educator, building the awareness and understanding within the organisation necessary to thrive in the digital world.”

Connecting Strategy And Creativity

Vaibhav Mittal, CIO of Sydney-based software solutions provider Adactin Group, said his role has taken on a far more visible and creative bent over the past few years.

“CIOs need to absorb all available information and gather a trusted team around them to be able to implement innovative digital solutions,” Mittal said. “Creativity is at the forefront of that change as it keeps people motivated and leads to organisational growth.”

Mittal explains that technology’s complexity and the need to make it more accessible has placed CIOs closer to the centre of strategic decision-making at the highest levels, especially with regards to the vast amounts of data that need to be collected and disseminated.

“In today’s world, data is your drawing board,” he said. “You can use your creativity to draw a picture of the future and present it to the board. Business cases that use data effectively to justify [themselves] will usually get the nod.”

Bauer Media Group’s Hanna also believes CIOs are helping to drive the creative/strategic direction of his company, at both regional and global levels.

“We are the ones setting the vision and direction and providing a clear, consistent, and transparent road map for change,” he said. “This requires problem-solving abilities and, above all, the ability to inspire, motivate, and challenge internal and external partners.”

Narayanan agreed.

“At PwC, the CIO is a key leadership role that partners with our boards and key business leaders on the firm’s strategic direction,” he said. “Digitisation is one of the firm’s five strategic focuses this financial year. A strategic direction that embraces technology, lifts digital competency among the workforce, and accelerates digital culture is critical for organisations that want to compete and prosper in a time of technological revolution.”

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