It’s predicted that as technology become simpler for staff to operate, the traditional CIO role will need to change. We discuss how, with Khalid Kark, US CIO Program Research Leader at Deloitte.


Podcast Transcript

Heather Taylor

Hi, I’m Heather Taylor. And welcome to the Simplicity 2.0 podcast, devoted to exploring how executives can tap some of today’s most disruptive technology trends to gain a competitive edge.

In today’s episode, we’re going to look at something fundamental. Is the role of the CIO, as we know it, dead? That’s actually the conclusion reached by PricewaterhouseCoopers in a recent report I for Innovation, which predicts that as technology becomes simpler for staff to operate on their own, the traditional need for the CIO to manage and oversee systems will decline.

As if that weren’t enough, the report predicts changes in the digital space in the next 5 years that will be more massive than in the last 20. Such unprecedented pressures will make success more challenging than ever for senior executives and the CIOs that serve them.

But all is not lost. CIOs can lead the way in this emerging future. Let’s find out how. Simplicity 2.0 is brought to you by Laserfiche, the world’s leading enterprise content management software, which manages and controls information so you can empower employees to work smarter, faster, and better.


We’re joined today by Khalid Kark, US CIO Program Research Leader at Deloitte. We’re talking about the I for Innovation report from PWC, which argues that CIOs need to stop thinking of themselves as someone who just keeps the lights on and instead, becomes a Chief Innovation Officer, a strategic change agent.

We’ve got a lot to unpack here. But to start, Khalid, to what extent would you agree that the projection that, as technology becomes easier to use, the CIO in a traditional sense will become less relevant?

Khalid Kark

Yeah, so again, we did our own research recently. And we talked to 1,200 CIOs across the globe. And what we realized was that the CIO role is going to remain fairly important for many, many companies. There are a couple of reasons for that.

Reason number one is there is still a huge amount of legacy infrastructure that still remains, right. And so yes, there is going to be an element of CIOs evolving, CIOs making sure that they’re understanding and responding to the changes that their businesses are going through.

But I feel fairly strongly that the CIO role remains fairly important for companies. Now, the shift and the allocation of time given to their traditional responsibilities probably adjusts. But I feel – in talking to several of the most important CIOs out there and they feel the same way – there still is going to be a fairly significant component of their role, which is to ensure, whether they’re doing it themselves or not, to ensure that the IT and the technology infrastructure is able to provide a reliable, consistent kind of environment for the companies to operate within.

So, we did this interesting survey where we looked across the CIO – 1,200 CIOs across the globe. And we segmented their responses into three categories. And by the way, we never asked them, “Which segment do you belong to?”

Based on their responses, we were able to segment them into three different categories. And each category actually was able to respond to the business needs slightly differently. Now, one category was primarily focused on keeping the lights on.

And by the way, 55 percent of the global CIOs currently fall in that category. And so, yeah, I think it’s still a fairly significant part of their role. But the most interesting part was a category that we called Business Co-Creators that seemed to really understand the changing dynamics and be involved in business strategy.

They were still spending about 40 percent of their time and effort and energy in ensuring consistent, reliable, cost-efficient systems being provided to their organization. So, I feel that CIO role is still fairly significantly – obviously, changing fairly rapidly – but fairly significantly still needs to be – even if they have outsourced a whole lot of their environment, they still need to be responsible for ensuring that their organization is able to have the consistent, reliable technology experience that they expect.

Heather Taylor

So, what kind of IT skills are actually more in demand, then? And so, you know, are there any surprising ones or unusual ones that you think were going to, you know, stick with us?

Khalid Kark

Yeah. So continuing on that evolution conversation, right, so the CIO role is evolving. It’s something that everybody in the industry is starting to recognize. And primarily, because the traditional skillset for IT that we had and a traditional path for a CIO to grow within the firm is not sufficient anymore.

And so, what we’re finding is 56 percent of the CIOs today have had a leadership experience outside of technology. So, that skill in itself to understand the broader business perspective, having a broader business perspective, and trying to make sure that there is an ability for CIOs to, not just understand, but actually respond to that – the changes – by proactively delivering technology solutions too.

Interestingly, customer experience, customer engagement skillset is something that many, many CIOs are looking for. And that’s still missing for most part within IT too, not just – and that’s even if you’re a B2B company, understanding your end customer, making sure that you’ve got the ability to, not just understand, but respond to their needs even before they’re thinking about it.

So in an app, you got to be proactive. You got to think ahead of the customer. So, developing that mindset is going to be fairly significant.

Heather Taylor

So, if you spent all of your life on the tech side of the house – I mean, we’ve been talking here about those soft skills, such as management and other elements – so, if you’re on – been on the tech side of the house, how do you acquire those skills?

And is there a place that you can go to? So for instance, like, is it networking events? Is it coaching? Is it reading more? So, how do we get there?

Khalid Kark

Yeah, great question. And I think it’s a combination of many things. One thing I would highly recommend to any person who aspires to be a technology leader – not even a CIO, but any technology leader within their organizations – is to actually step outside of their comfort zone.

And that means even stepping outside of IT, right. And so, having that broader perspective helps a lot. I’ve talked to many CIOs who’ve said that their experience in a particular part of the business or running a particular business line or having experience – just going out and sitting with the people who use technology everyday.

So, sitting on a factory floor or a retail shop and interacting with those people regularly allows you to get that perspective. So, if you’re an aspiring CIO, go spend time outside of IT. It’s going to be huge for your development.

If you are an existing CIO, I would say go talk to your customers. Go talk to your suppliers. Go talk to your partner or strategic partners and try to understand those perspectives. Because, you know, I mean, you could go to all the conferences you want and you can go to all the leadership seminars.

Every company has a slightly different context and need. And so, you got to understand what that is and stay ahead of that. And many, many CIOs that we’re working with try to focus on a few things, right.

So, they tend to have networks that span inside and outside their organizations at different levels. So, they’re not just focused on their peer group. They’re focused on different layers within the organization and different functions, different areas to try to get a deeper understanding of what the reality is. So, that’s one.

The second, I would say, is to be a learner, a life learner, right. And many CIOs that are successful – they are very keen on understanding kind of learnings from research, learnings from other kind of leaders that have done well.

And it doesn’t have to be a technology leader. So today, as you pointed out, a lot of these skillsets are general leadership skills. And CIOs being new entrance to the C-Suite need a lot of catching up to do.

One interesting thing that we found in our survey was that compared to other executives – other C-Suite executives – CIOs had a little bit less of an emotional intelligence. They tended to focus much more on the outcome than on emotions, which may be a good thing and a bad thing, right.

But in general, we tend to find that CIOs need to be a little bit more aware of the people around them, influencing them and trying to ensure that they have the ability to, not just have a relationship, which is the first step, but to be able to bring influence to that relationship.

So, that takes a lot of time, effort. And the first thing – going back to our first conversation – the first thing that you need to do is to deliver a reliable, consistent, efficient technology environment. If you don’t do that, you don’t have the license to do anything else.

And so, you got to make sure that you’ve got your house in order before you start to move on to these other skillsets.

Heather Taylor

You know, with that idea, if you are completely embedded and comingled and you do have that ability to start to make small changes, do you think that the CIO is really put at that, you know, uniquely poised to lead through any bigger disruptive change because they are embedded in that technology across the board?

You know, does that have legs as a unique value proposition?

Khalid Kark

Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. And I think it’s going to vary, depending on the business context, depending on the industry, et cetera. But I do feel strongly that, generally, the CIO role is probably at an inflection point right now, where either CIOs step up and take this challenge of really this dual role of, not just supporting the traditional role, but also stepping up as a leader that is respected, that is valued as a topline revenue generator, a growth kind of driver, et cetera, in addition to, obviously, providing the basic capabilities around IT.

And so, if they don’t – and in some cases they won’t – if they don’t step up, we will see other business leaders step into that role. Because whether we like it or not, technology is at the core of every business.

And every business needs a technology leader. Whether that’s a CIO or not is going to be dependent on the people and the business context and all those kinds of things. But we definitely need a leader that can understand technology that can provide the competitive advantage to companies that are – especially in industries that are competitive.

Technology can be that competitive edge. And so, absolutely, I would say, in most cases, I would say CIOs could provide that edge because of a few reasons, right. CIOs, first and foremost, have a much broader perspective than any other functional leader.

They look across the organization. Secondly, they understand technology and the levers that they could use. And an emerging technology for me may not be an emerging technology for the next CIO.

But they understand technology well enough for them to recognize how and what technology can do, in terms of impact, to their business and to their business models. And then third, I think they have a few core skillsets that allow them to be setup for success.

One is, they have dealt with multiple vendors throughout their careers. So, vendor management, in this case in today’s environment, where everything is moving to a cloud, where you’ve got a core group of people that can support your strategy.

But then, you can potentially outsource all kinds of technology or non-technology things to third parties and aggregate and orchestrate that ability to manage multiple providers of services and capabilities.

I think that’s a core skillset that’s going to help CIOs. And then lastly, I think – and by the way, that also kind of leads to the next one, which is, CIOs are used to rapid changes in environments. And so, technology has been changing so rapidly.

They are used to fairly significant change, quickly. They have had the experience of going through large ERP transformations and other large business transformations. And so, they know how to deal with change.

And so, they have the ability to – if done well – lead their organizations through this change. So, I feel if – it’s a battle for a CIO’s to lose. If they step up, they could be that next business leaders.

And I am actually very hopeful, in talking to many of the CIOs over the last few months that many of them understand that they need to make this change. It’s up to them to now step up and raise their hands at times.

And other times, just kind of go muddle through that change.

Heather Taylor

Fantastic. I just want to say thank you so much, Khalid, for joining us and coming to speak with us today here at Simplicity 2.0.

Khalid Kark

Sure. Happy to be here and enjoyed the conversation.

Heather Taylor

We’d like to thank Khalid from Deloitte for coming to speak with us today. Don’t forget to add Simplicity 2.0 to your RSS Feed or iTunes. Thanks to Laserfiche for sponsoring today’s episode. Learn more about Laserfiche at or follow on Twitter @laserfiche.

Until next time. This is Heather Taylor for Simplicity 2.0.


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