The Future Role of the CIO

by Patrick Naef, 2020

Chapter 1

Introduction: The future role of the CIO

In recent years, digitalisation and digital transformation have become key topics that every business needs to think about.

I use digitalisation in this context to mean companies employing state-of-the-art technology to automate their established business processes within their established business models and markets, while digital transformation involves a company using technology to explore new business models or markets, redesign its core processes based on technology and/or develop new products and services using information technology.

While I don’t want to go into more detail about the difference between the two terms (which have now largely become buzzwords) I would like to discuss a few aspects that are impacting on the role of the CIO of companies going through digitalisation and/or digital transformation.


With technology - and IT in particular – becoming an inherent core component of the business, it can no longer be treated as a support function delegated to a CIO and mostly focussed on running the back office; it has now evolved into a key strategic component of the business. Therefore, the person in charge of IT within the company - let us assume this is still the CIO - will have a different and much more strategic role to play. Some of the “traditional” ways of managing IT within a company will have to drastically change. What worked well in the past might not be the right thing anymore when it comes to future developments.

I have identified a number of trends that I believe will heavily influence the future role of CIOs (I make no claims that this list is conclusive):

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