How Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) may replace the traditional Chief Information Officer (CIO)

The 2018 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey demonstrates that technological innovation and digitalization are changing the way CIOs work.

Of the CIOs surveyed in India, 51 percent reported that they were heading innovation, whereas 49 percent reported that they were leading digital transformation.

The survey collected data from 3,160 CIOs in 98 countries, covering all major industries. The firms headed by these CIOs accounted for $277 billion in IT spending and $13 trillion in revenue/public sector budgets. In India, 59 CIOs responded, and their companies accounted for $3.8 billion in IT spending and $543 billion in revenue/public sector budgets.

Around 95 percent of the surveyed CIOs expected their jobs to change due to digitalization, with the two biggest transformations being (a) becoming a change leader and (b) undertaking broader and greater responsibilities and capabilities. So, the CIO’s role is expected to expand to take on additional areas of business like innovation management and talent development. According to Andy Rowsell-Jones, VP at Gartner, “The CIO’s role must grow and develop as digital business spreads, and disruptive technologies, including intelligent machines and advanced analytics, reach the masses. While delivery is still a part of the job, a far greater emphasis is being placed on attaining a much broader set of business objectives.”

Technological advances necessitate CINO roles

When the Internet arrived 20 years ago, it necessitated roles such as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO). Now, disruption of the enterprise by advanced technologies (blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, cognitive computing, machine learning, and chatbots) is giving rise to the role of the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO).

In fact, the entire C-suite considers technology to be the game changer today.

A Forrester report on the global tech market outlook for 2017 - 2018 shows that technology spending is increasing and, for the first time, is set to exceed $3 trillion globally and $1.5 trillion in the United States. JPMorgan’s CEO reported in his annual letter to shareholders that the U.S. bank spent $9.5 billion on technology in 2016.

IBM and Fujitsu are at the forefront of the transformation in the nature of the business. These firms have dedicated CINO roles, tasked with encouraging people and cultures to become receptive to new ideas. Large firms recognize that innovation cannot be treated as a separate entity and must be grounded in organizational culture. To do this, an approach that includes everyone and everything in the firm—people, collaboration, and technology—is required.

The CIO is the Chief Innovation Officer

IBM believes that the CIO is the Chief Innovation Officer. Since the CIO is in the eye of the digital transformation storm, he or she is perfectly equipped to transform the business with technology.

Information is gradually becoming synonymous with innovation as CIOs make use of technologies such as analytics, cloud, and artificial intelligence to identify growth markets and empower their employees. The very nature of the CIO’s job is changing—from being a delivery executive to a business executive, from pushing revenue growth to tapping data, and from controlling costs to creating processes.

It may not be long before the traditional role of the CIO is replaced by the CINO. The CINO could be known by various names—vice president of innovation and artificial intelligence, chief artificial intelligence officer, or chief knowledge officer—but the understanding is that within the next 5 years, the role will become of crucial importance to the business.

IBM’s Global C-suite Study found that the top four percent of all companies surveyed, known as “torchbearers,” are widely reputed to be strong innovators. These companies also report a robust financial performance. Over 70 percent of the CIOs in these torchbearer companies were found to understand the need to maintain continuous innovation while running core IT functions. Thus, these CIOs are concerned about the strategic implications of IT.

CINOs in the news

The business world is currently buzzing with news about CINOs and their growing visibility.

This year, Coca-Cola hired a chief growth officer to look after innovation, technology, and sustainability. The FMCG giant’s chief innovation officer now reports directly to the CEO.

This restructuring at the top signals a transformation from a classic beverage company to a “growth-oriented and consumer-centered” tech company. Nordstrom created the position of the CINO with the intent to employ digital technology to give flagging sales a shot in the arm. DP World promoted its existing VP of Innovation to a proper CINO. Cint announced the appointment of a CINO as part of their leadership team.

Ninety-two percent of business executives, according to a Harvard Business Review and IBM study, feel the need to quickly analyze data and insights to remain competitive. But only 14 percent say that they can do it well. Product innovations do not stay relevant for long enough to sustain the traditional product-to-market cycle of 12-36 months. Methodologies such as Agile and User-Centered Design are helping companies adopt a rapid delivery model to test their hypotheses. Large amounts of data are flowing in from various channels—salespeople, service staff, customers, social media, and an increasing number of devices. Cloud technologies and analytics are helping companies to gather data, analyze it, and gain meaningful insights quickly. Cognitive services, available in “as-a-service” delivery models, can make sense of huge quantities of data. Thus, technology is at the core of business innovation.

Innovation is the way to stay competitive

Innovation, broadly defined by the New York Times, is “the crucial ingredient in all economic progress—higher growth for nations, more competitive products for companies, and more prosperous careers for individuals.” Up to 49% companies fail in their innovation efforts according to a study published in 2013. Thus, CINOs will need to boost collaboration between individuals as well as between teams to enable them to innovate together. In today’s world of cloud and cognitive computing, CIOs (or CINOs as they may eventually become) have an important task—to introduce innovative business models that will help firms stay competitive.

About the Author

Satabdi Mukherjee
Satabdi Mukherjee is a freelance writer with a special interest in business and technology. She likes to stay informed about the latest developments around the world and considers herself an information junkie.