The role of the CIO is rapidly changing – and it’s about time.
A recurring theme in articles for CIOs over the last several years has been around repositioning yourself towards becoming focused on growing the business rather than just saving costs. Done correctly, IT transforms from being a cost center to being the epicenter of growth and new possibilities.
A recent CIO.com article on Michelle Garvey, the new CIO of J. Crew, quotes that “The once high-flying clothing brand has hired Ann Inc. CIO Michelle Garvey, as it seeks to bolster its business at a time when many apparel retailers are struggling to maintain their swagger.” In other words, Garvey has been brought in to grow the business. She is not there to outsource IT or to reduce costs by some unsustainable amount, she is there to find top line growth opportunities by addressing emerging markets and needs innovative technology to react to change faster than the competition.
It wasn’t too many years ago that you’d bring in a new CMO or COO to focus on driving top line growth. Now, there is a visible shift within companies, such as J. Crew, as they realize that the CIO can play a critical role in driving revenue and new revenue streams as they have a hands-on role with shaping IT infrastructure and can identify and implement innovative technologies to make a strong financial impact. In other words, they have made the CIO the new CRO: Chief Revenue Officer.
This should not be of any surprise to anyone who’s paying attention. We’ve been steadily watching IT take increasingly strategic roles in the business for years. WalMart is consuming the Twitter fire hose to make just-in-time product placement decisions at its stores, UPS is using route optimization software to reduce fuel costs and more effectively schedule delivery so the same amount of infrastructure can support larger sales, and every major financial is using software to not just do bookkeeping, but to actively generate income from automated trading. Progressive businesses have mastered weaving IT into the fabric of their product offerings.
As IT leads the business, the drivers for applications and their development become more intense than ever. Apps are no longer just about counting things or adding up columns of numbers. They are possibly the first and last thing a customer will see when engaging with our brand – they are part of the customer experience. Good apps become differentiators. Great apps elevate the engagement from being a glorified point of sale to being an experience of its own that draws the customer back and creates brand loyalty. In effect, IT itself is the lead generation engine that marketing used to be, and is driving awareness of a company’s products and/or services. IT is no longer simply an enabler of transactions or business, it is the driver of revenue.
The CIO has become the CRO.
Executive Leadership Team? Make space for one more … there is a new sheriff in town.