CIOs take on larger leadership positions
Digital transformations that are sweeping the globe are paving the way for CIOs who are business-oriented to be given new roles and take on tasks beyond their typical IT responsibility.
Through a career that spanned R&D and product development, supply chain management, and technology, Praveen Jonnala is well in a position to run an international IT business and also take over the management of operations, as well as other essential business functions.
Jonnala was appointed CIO of network infrastructure provider CommScope in the past two years following over a dozen years at the company , in various positions that were responsible for the company’s transformation of technology and business.
In the present, Jonnala also commands much of the COO portfolio – more duties that are based on his experience in analyzing the needs of business as well as translating these into highly effective digital solutions.
“Whether you’re a holder of any official titles or not, you’re in an era of technology where leaders aren’t able to operate just doing various tech-related things,” says Jonnala, the senior vice president of CommScope and CIO.
“There’s more recognition from executives that technology is driving efficiency, disrupting products and underlying the new models of revenue. There’s a natural urge to examine CIOs today not just to manage applications and data centers and infrastructure, but as an innovative catalyst for business.”
It’s not uncommon for other people in the C-suite to assume more responsibilities however, the CIO has always worn many roles without the benefits or splendor of having a formal title that marked the expanded territory.
The success of the transition to remote work and the rapid digital transformation that occurred during the time of the pandemic has elevated CIOs standing, and earned them respect and trust from the business community that was not available prior to.
Since technology is now a ubiquitous technology that is a key enabler for all aspects of business, CIOs can enjoy all-encompassing visibility and cross-functional understanding that other executives don’t have and also control of the most important assets of the company like analytics and data.
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“We always had business leaders assume different roles however, the position of CIO was never given any of these pulses they were always put over the top of an executive who was” claims John Hill, senior vice president and chief digital information officer at MSC Industrial Supply, where the CIO is responsible for digital strategy marketing, ecommerce solution for vending, metalworking technology along with advanced analytics.
“Given the significance of technology in operations and business, we’re seeing more of the need for an individual with a technical background take on other duties.”
CIOs expand their responsibility
Hill was appointed to MSC specifically for the newly established job, which brought together various business functions into a digitally-enabled organization that is better suited to function and grow in the modern era of business.
Hill’s diverse experience in technical and nontechnical positions as well as CIO experiences in insurance and apparel companies has given him a wide range of experience in leadership in supply chain management and strategic planning.
“It was the broad array of experiences that made me a good fit to MSC,” he says. “I was not only an executive with a functional background who happens to have experience in technology. I managed IT and also business processes, so I know the process and how it all fits together from a technology standpoint.”
CommScope’s Jonnala is also credited with the capacity to improve business results as a key factor in his growing scope of work. Beginning with the chaos in supply chains that began during the outbreak Jonnala’s IT company was proactive in providing strategies and options to the business leadership in order to deal with the disruptions. This created trust, he says.
In the future, Jonnala’s team utilized data-driven insights to help make sure that the sourcing of parts is in line with the demand to improve inventory management, and to ensure production continued to flow.
They also played a key role in formulating models to optimize logistic routes and costs for freight — all of which are crucial issues during and after the aftermath of the pandemic. “Because logistics and distribution for multinational companies are extremely complex, it’s a natural development and can add an additional value for the company to incorporate CIO responsibility with operations and supply chain,” Jonnala contends.
The coordination of oversight of the design and development of products the user experience, design, along with data management is a natural CIO-plus territory, particularly for a company that is digitally-savvy like Ally where the entire financial process and services are focused on technology, as per Sathish Muthukrishnan.
He was hired as the chief information and data officer. Muthukrishnan was a comparable position in Honeywell Aerospace, but he gained most of his skills in digital transformation in American Express where he laid the API basis for the company’s highly successful digital partnerships.
Muthukrishnan states that many CIOs managing digital transformations don’t lead business transformation. This is the reason Muthukrishnan and the other CIOs plus candidates distinguish themselves from other candidates.
As a CIO at Ally the digital financial services firm, Muthukrishnan is the head of a single company which is responsible for the definition of products, defining an experience for users, developing the product, collecting and protecting relevant information, as well as managing and running the solution from beginning to end.
“How we run digitally is unique and ought to have a different approach,” he explains. “You should not lead by technology. You must understand the distinct customer experience you’re trying to create, how that can be translated into business benefit, and how you can make it happen by using the latest technology.”
Angela Yochem, executive vice chief transformation officer and chief digital officer of Novant Health, has a long-running career of CIO positions at medium and large-sized businesses, but her goal has always been to accomplish more, with a focus on the work of transformation.
Yochem improved her CIO leadership in several of the biggest companies performing the typical modernization of the technology infrastructure however, she quickly went to a variety of mid-sized organizations to acquire abilities she had not previously such as designing digital products with lines of business as well as working with international press and investors, and even working with owners in the sale of a company.
“Imagine that a CIO of the Fortune 10 company is talking to investment analysts -They should however, they don’t,” she explains.
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“I was able to apply all the lessons and muscle I accumulated in the past and put it into issues that were not easily categorized to a specific area of. I became very adept in identifying clear and fast routes through the complexity to achieve the most effective outcomes for the organizations I served.”
In Novant Health, Yochem has taken on P&L duties as the director for Novant Health Enterprises. The business division is now independent. division is an incubator for partnerships and solutions that can assist Novant create new growth and clinical opportunities for the healthcare system.
Yochem believes that her years of experience as a technology leader position her from a context awareness perspective to identify the areas that could be ripe for expansion of business. From a personal point of view the Novant Health CIO-plus job enables her to impact the future of health care delivery.
“For myself, this is all about applying my skills beyond the CIO job to tackle the most important and most pressing issues of the present,” she explains. “I would like every tech executive to make use of their X-ray vision to assist other employees determine where there are growth opportunities that may not be apparent to other executives.”
The plus role is being played out
With the rise of the cloud and managed services the main role of the CIO function has changed from overseeing data centers, their infrastructure and email to digital and business transformation, and the responsibility of the revenue generation process for different sectors in the enterprise.
CIOs who are suited for these types of tasks must be proficient in traditional and non-technological capabilities, including speaking the language of business in the boardroom, having a aptitude for understanding business and financial plans, and building an extensive book of business states Andrew Brock, president of technology and digital services and CIO at Associa, the real estate management company.
With a track record of running IT and business operations Brock was hired by Associa as the chief of staff of the CIO. He later took over the CIO position, and established credibility while running IT as well as creating a shared services company and also being a great manager of revenue as well as managing money.
The wins helped him earn an additional role as the president and CEO for HOAM Ventures, an independently managed affiliate of Associa which is a specialist in real and property estate technology.
Before a CIO is thought of as the head of an P&L division such as HOME or take on the role of a larger size they should be able to master the basics of IT blocking as well as tackling skills, to create an organization that is solid and steady.
“If everyone is unhappy about the poor performance that the Help Desk provides, or there’s not 99.99 percent uptime, then nobody will be looking at the CIO for a new job,” he says. “Those fundamental functions have to be running smoothly to allow CIOs the capacity to think of other options and be able to take on the task.”
While building trust and establishing competency is crucial, CIOs hungry for the more-role opportunity shouldn’t be waiting to be given the keys to a new function — they must actively request the position and explain why it’s beneficial for business.
That’s exactly what Scott Strickland did in his current position in his current position as CIO as well as executive vice-president of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts as also in his previous CIO-plus assignments.
When Strickland was hired by Wyndham in 2017 he was a traditional CIO and then increased his portfolio to include vendor management, presenting the idea that since IT was the largest portion of the expenditure and was the largest expense, it was logical to put all IT under one roof and to manage it.
With this new job, Strickland was soon tapped for additional roles in addition to an immediate report system to the chief executive.
He now oversees the global strategy for contact center and operations, which includes guests, employees franchises, and guests which is an income-generating business segment. Strickland is also in charge of Wyndham’s Distribution Services, which supervises and manages Central Reservation Services. Central Reservation Services platform.
“If you’re considering conducting something, make an inquiry,” he contends. “Lay your business argument to show why it makes sense, and build relationships with your colleagues and then look for something that could be perceived as a source of pain.”
Do not underestimate that it’s crucial to join dots between the possibilities of technology and the actuality of what a particular technology can do for your business. Anyone CIO who is aspiring to a higher-level position must be proficient in the measurement and modeling that help improve the business’s performance.
“If you believe that quantum is the next great technology, and you try it, and then spend $50 million before figuring out how to use it, you’re not helping customers, stakeholders as well as investors and employees,” says Ally’s Muthukrishnan.
In conclusion, standard suggestions — forming real partnerships with the company, understanding marketing technology’s contribution to facilitating business outcomes and success, and sustaining an obsession with the customer allow CIOs to take on new roles as executive officers and assume duties.
“The ways that businesses as well as the world are changing in the coming years, it’s likely that tech leaders will also be the business’s leaders” Muthukrishnan says. “They will assume additional responsibility to ensure that companies invest with confidence in technology and customers and shareholders see the value of that investment. This will become the standard.”