I presented the keynote at the Biztech2 event in Mumbai last week. It was a big evening, as almost all key Indian CIOs were present at the event. The theme of my keynote was “The Empowered BT CIO,” which triggered some interesting thoughts, as all of the discussions that I had after the presentation were mainly around “business” with hardly any mention of “technology.” Below are the key points mentioned by CIOs in my discussions with them:

  • “We do all the work and business leaders take all the credit. But if something goes wrong, we are the ones who get the blame.”
  • “The money is with the finance and marketing departments, and we have to depend on them for our budget. My CEO should change this structure.”
  • “I don’t have followers in my organization.”
  • “My organization doesn’t give me the same importance as it gives the CFO or CMO.”
  • “Through technology innovation, I helped the company reduce IT spending and save money.”

All of these points have one thing in common: “my present role and issues that I face today.” But no one talked about their future role! My response to them was consistent, as I categorically highlighted that CIOs have two options:

  • Continue with your current approach — but then the future role of the CIO will be dismal.
  • Step up and take the challenge to shape the business. Take it as an opportunity to transform your role in the empowered world.

It is evident from the points below that Indian CIOs are sitting in their technology boat with the aim of successfully sailing through a complex, fast-changing world — which isn’t a practical (or even possible) goal. Some key areas CIOs should carefully address:

  • CIOs are great at understanding the business, but more from a technology perspective. This makes them less powerful in articulating the message in business terms.
  • Innovation still revolves around “how to reduce IT spending” and not “how technology can help create new revenue streams for the business.”
  • Collaboration is defined as “providing dashboards to the marketing and customer service departments.”
  • About 50% to 60% of CIOs’ time is spent on maintaining and supporting the infrastructure and applications instead of focusing more on innovation, vendor management, and enterprise architecture — which is their future role.
  • Direct customer engagement is minimal and is generally left in the hands of marketing and customer service groups.

CIOs today are at a crossroads, from which they will select the path to their future role. Successful CIOs will choose the empowered BT path, as it will help them become more influential and powerful than who fail to do so. The countdown has begun — and Indian CIOs should act now, before it’s too late.