The CIO is Dead, Long Live the Chief Enterprise Transformation Officer aka “The Transformer”!

Deepak Seth
Deepak Seth
Principal Director, Technology Consulting

Ask most business professionals about Information Technology and they’ll describe something big, expensive, sturdy, built-to-last, took years to build, etc. A reminder of the ERP, Data Centers, Infrastructure, Legacy systems, failed/delayed projects of yore.

And ask them to describe the Digital Economy of today they are likely to use words like agile, changing, quick, economical, user-driven, Instant gratification etc.

Houston, we’ve got a problem!

The name of the leader of our profession in an organization has not kept pace with the expectations from it. Some would say, What’s in a name? Rose is a rose is a rose……

Ask a marketer though and they’ll say having the right name is like being halfway to winning the battle for the customers’ minds (Chilean Seabass is a delectable delicacy at many high-end restaurants, it was not exactly flying off the grill when it was called Patagonian Toothfish. Who wants a tooth in a meal!)

Let’s not be flippant about it though. There is considerable research to show a name matters:

  • The name influences the perceptions about a thing which then influences the expectations from it which then in a feedback loop influences the way the people who are part of the group view themselves, behave and deliver.

The need of the hour is rebranding  the CIO as Chief Enterprise Transformation Officer:

  • The business environment is dynamic and constantly evolving. Technological Disruptions are the name of the game and are here to stay. Systems and processes need to be responsive to constant change. The days when people expected to build gold plated systems and processes which lasted forever are gone. The need is not for expensive “well-architected” last forever solutions but “transformable” solutions that not only cost less to build but are cheaper to re-purpose, refurbish or even throwaway. With the pace of technological progress so fast why would you wed yourself to technology or technical architecture which will be obsolete before it is fully built? The technology environment within an organization needs to constantly “transform”.
  • Information Technology sounds static. It sounds like something which starts on a clean slate. While what we do primarily deals with existing systems and processes which need transformation.
  • Information is a noun. Transformation is a verb. It is an action word. Transformation implies motion, Information Technology sounds like something ready to be put on the shelf.
  • Business is already alive to this problem. Most organizations have teams named as and tasked with “Business Transformation”. More often than not on the technology side they are paired with “Information Technology”. To drive home the shared objectives and close alignment with the business it is logical that the team on the IT side has the T-word in its name.
  • Perception Drives Reality. Building a better mousetrap i.e. being good at what we do is not enough. No sense hanging the sign “Great Mousetrap Builder” outside our shop when the customers are looking for “Cat”.

Note that I am not talking about just renaming but “Rebranding” which implies focused efforts and initiatives to communicate a repositioning of objectives in alignment with the new environmental realities, closely aligned with the business.

If you don’t like the term “Rebranding”, you can call it a “Makeover”

And I am not the only one seeing the winds of change (tsunami?) headed our way. Increasingly, the moniker CIO is being replaced by Chief Technology Officer or Chief Digital Officer. In my opinion, though,  even those titles are constrained and do not do justice to the true ambit of the role.

A way of driving value would be to align the nomenclature with a key-value driver – Transformation.

Now, this may rankle some of the purists. Many among us have got used to the word “Information” in our titles and may wonder – what would I be called if not a CIO? Well, how about Chief Enterprise Transformation Officer.

And if you are the flamboyant kind who can live up to a really flashy title, how about “The Transformer”.

The CIO is Dead, Long Live the Chief Enterprise Transformation Officer aka “The Transformer”!

About Author: Deepak Seth is Principal Director, Technology Consulting at Accenture. He provides Innovation and Thought Leadership as part of Accenture's CIO Advisory practice for clients in the Resources sector (Oil and Gas, Chemicals, Utilities, Minerals and Mining etc.). Prior to this Deepak has handled diverse and progressively increasing responsibilities at Xerox's IT organization. His last role was as Technology Strategy and Business Transformation leader for Solution Delivery and Acceleration. Deepak is a passionate advocate for innovation and adoption of Cloud solutions, AI/ML, API Microservices, predictive analytics, collaboration tools, blockchain, and other nascent/disruptive technologies into the enterprise to develop new opportunities and applications. Prior to Xerox, he has led several global initiatives for leading Corporations (including Bausch+Lomb, BlueCross BlueShield, Glaxo etc.). He has extensive experience in sales, finance and information technology in Asia, Africa and the Americas.