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In the modern tech-infused work environment, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is in the unenviable position of not only having to keep up with the latest technologies which affect the macroenvironment in which his company operates, but also implement them internally and keep an eye out for business threats (such as security issues, or more generally, obsolescence) and opportunities (such as more efficient software or infrastructure).

This is as true for channel businesses as for any other. CIOs of ICT channel businesses are (or at least should be) exposed to many of the technologies which run through the distribution chain of their company, and should be keeping an opportunistic/wary eye out for any new or trending technologies which could potentially be capitalized upon.

As technology changes and progresses, it stands to reason that the role of the CIO should evolve as well. As such, CIO.com lists skills and traits of a next-generation CIO, detailing “what it takes to stand out as a great, forward-thinking CIO.”

Customer Focus

“If you’re a CIO who hasn’t made the realization that we are multiple years into the age of the customer, then it’s time to shop for a new job,” says Ingrid Lindberg, former Customer Experience Officer (CXO) for Cigna Health. “You have to understand the customer’s wants and needs.”

Data Focus

“It used to be data was just something we backed up on a 24-hour basis,” says Julian Hicks, a 30-year IT veteran who’s now CFO/CTO for tech recruiting firm Staff Smart. “Now data is king. From an IT perspective, it’s the most important thing out there. Companies want to know how to slice and dice that data to give them a competitive advantage.”

No Turf Wars

“While CMOs, CDOs, CXOs, and CIOs usually have different mandates, the boundaries between them are sometimes less than distinct” says Jake Sorofman, Vice President and Chief of Research of the Gartner for Chief Marketing Executives group. “There is a blurring in the specific titles and roles across these disciplines. There’s no uniformity anymore. I think that’s because one CMO doesn’t look like the next with respect to the scope of their responsibility. In many organizations, the CMO may be the CDO.”

This is an important point. While some companies may have separate defined roles for positions such as CIO (Chief Information Officer), CDO (Chief Digital Officer), CXO (Chief [User] Experience Officer) and CTO (Chief Technology Officer), others employ only one person, often as a CIO, and assume their role to span the various positions covered above.

In many organizations, the CMO may be the CDO.

For those companies which do have separate roles however, the CIO position may be losing its lustre. An article titled ‘Why No One Wants to Be a Chief Information Officer Any More’ in Fortune magazine highlights the fact that “the CIO job includes a lot of heavy lifting.” It adds that “CIOs also end up being the wet blankets of the technology field, and also have to wrestle with legacy software and hardware.”

In addition: “Another problem with the job is that many of the most interesting aspects of it often get hived off into other roles. Perhaps a CIO would like to focus, for example, on how to digitize a company’s business processes and relationships. Too bad—that’s been taken over by the Chief Digital Officer. Love thinking about how new technologies might be put to use in your company’s products and services? Too bad, that job has been taken by the CTO. There are also a lot of exciting things happening in the world of analytics and big data, but CIOs may not get to focus on them in organizations that have created Chief Analytics Officers or Chief Data Scientists. In some cases, of course, these roles report to CIOs, but they often do not.”

Increasing responsibility for charting future direction, or at least business infrastructure and processes, lies with the CIO/CTO.

Regardless of the merging or non-merging of these role boundaries, there are some functions needed across the CIO/CTO/CDO/CXO roles, including an element of strategy, good business administration and a willingness to be an agent of change and drive internal business transformation.

As businesses become increasingly tech-driven and influenced by the technological macro-environments in which they find themselves, more and more responsibility for charting future direction, or at least business infrastructure and processes, lies with the CIO/CTO.

Dr. Rado Kotorov, the Chief Innovation Officer for business intelligence (BI) and analytics provider Information Builders writes that the CIO is perfectly positioned to take on the role of future CEO, listing three crucial skills which make CIOs suited for the role – experience working with different technologies; experience managing knowledge and talent acquisition in a fast-paced environment; and experience making risky decisions.

As the ICT channel shifts along with the technology running through its channels, CIOs will need to adapt accordingly, fending off threats, taking heed of industry trends and charting the digital course of their company’s future operations.