On August 6, 2013, the Indian rupee plunged to a record low of INR61.80 to 1USD. In fact, since January 2013, the Indian rupee has depreciated by 10% against USD and is expected to slide further as India is challenged by political gridlock, serious infrastructure bottlenecks, and decreased investor confidence, all of which are contributing to a slowdown in economic growth. The declining rupee leads directly to increases in the cost of doing business, which has risen by 8-10% over the past year.

The difficult economic landscape has forced Indian firms to look for new and innovative ways to grow their businesses, create efficiencies, and improve responsiveness. This is driving changes in how Indian business leaders view technology – with many increasingly viewing technology as a far more critical means to differentiate their organizations and drive business growth. The pressure is now firmly on CIOs to deliver technology-led business outcomes for their organizations. To exploit this opportunity, CIOs should do the following:

– Develop a ‘business outcomes’ matrix and map existing and planned technology projects against it to build credibility with business leaders: ROI templates are generally developed to gain approvals and are typically limited to cost savings, but very few CIOs actually link their IT spending to clearly defined business outcomes. Define what business outcome means to your organization (e.g., increase in sales, revenue, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction to name few) and map each of your projects against the matrix to prioritize those with greatest business outcomes. This will help CIOs win buy-in from business stakeholders on project funding and priorities, while ensuring that IT is viewed as an equal and capable business partner.

– Expand IT’s focus from managing systems of record to delivering systems of engagement. Per Forrester's Forrsights Budget and Priorities Tracker, Q4 2012, addressing the rising expectations of customers and improving customer satisfaction is the top business priority (57%) of Indian organizations. As business leaders seek to meet the rising expectations of not only customers, but also partners and employees, CIOs should leverage digital technologies (mobile, analytics, cloud, social media and big data) to create more agile and flexible IT systems that enable improved customer intimacy. However, the shift to customer experience requires a radically different organizational focus from current IT organizations as CIOs will be required to alter governance processes, and change IT team’s performance metrics.

– Make sustained innovation a core business outcome competency. Innovation is essential for any firm that wants to master tomorrow’s business outcomes and win new business. As the boundary between IT and business further blurs, CIOs should lead with technology-based sustained innovation and establish innovation policies and practices that drive business value and support business strategies. For this, CIOs need to identify staffing models and skill sets for assuring sustained innovation’s success. For instance, Proctor & Gamble’s innovation team applies new technologies and applications at the business services level directly to innovate and deliver business outcomes (improve time to market, reduce cost of testing new product merchandising, etc.). You can learn more about innovation at Forrester’s Summit for CIOs scheduled for September 3, 2013 in Mumbai.

While CIOs must still devote significant time and energy to maintaining existing IT infrastructure, current economic trends in India coupled with the increasing demands and expectations of digital customers are redefining the way business is done. CIOs should embrace this opportunity to move their organizations beyond traditional technology approaches and leverage IT to enable business transformation. By doing so, CIOs will become true business leaders. The opposite is also true – CIOs that fail to seize this opportunity risk losing credibility within the organization, as business units seek to build their own solutions, leaving CIOs behind.