In the past, I suggested that the role of the CIO needs to shift from that of a Chief Information Officer to a Chief Innovation Officer, largely due to the rapid, multiple technology-driven transformations that are always occurring. But just as the CIO’s role needs to change, so too does the CTO’s role — from Chief Technology Officer to Chief Transformation Officer. This shift is necessary in order to maintain and elevate the position’s relevance within the organization. There is less of a need for merely understanding information and technology, and a much greater requirement of leaders to be anticipatory in regard to innovation and transformation.
Transform Instead of Change
Traditionally, the CIO has historically been focused on technology needed for running the company, while the CTO has been responsible for the technology integral to products being sold to customers or clients. However, based on predictable Hard Trends that have taken place and ones that will take place in the coming years, business processes always undergo major transformations, making it imperative that someone both drive and oversee internal as well as external, transformation in order to stay ahead of the curve and become an Anticipatory Organization®.
Keep in mind that change is doing the same thing, only with some small differences. Transformation is doing something completely different. The iTunes store changed music, giving us the ability to digitally purchase full-length albums and upload them to our iPods, cataloging them on our desktop computers. Spotify transformed it, giving us subscription access to just about anything we want to listen to on our mobile devices for one monthly fee, without us having to store anything on our desktop computers.
Old Titles and New Roles
It’s no longer enough to merely change your ways; you need to transform, no matter what field you operate in. There is no profession, career, business, or organization that is not going to transform dramatically and fundamentally as more technological change occurs every year, if not a little bit every day. Always expect radical transformation to occur fast and oftentimes without warning whatsoever.
Many technology companies of today not only profit but operate in a space of products and services that were nonexistent just a few short years ago. Snapchat is a great example of this. Before its inception, individuals took photos and videos with their mobile devices, sharing them merely on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and via text message in a semi-permanent fashion. Snapchat quickly facilitated the ability to send private photo and video messages that would delete themselves unless the recipient manually saved the message. In a matter of months, sending Snapchats became more popular than simple picture text messages, reflecting the transformative nature of business today as well as the speed of the transformation.
Given this example, it’s vital that today’s CTOs embrace the role of Chief Transformation Officer. No longer will this position’s relevance be tied to how well he or she can oversee the development of technology. The CTO will need to oversee the transformation of every business process, including how you sell, market, communicate, collaborate, and innovate.
This also means that the CTO and CIO need to be in closer collaboration with each other. Because the CIO’s new role is Chief Innovation Officer, and because so much of the CIO’s previous responsibilities are digitized today with nearly everything as a service (XaaS), the CIO is free to focus on overall innovation. By working closely together, the CTO and CIO can drive transformation and innovation — both internally and in terms of product and service development.
Ultimately, no matter what business or occupation you’re in, it will transform in many ways. In fact, the landscape is going to transform so radically that no organization will go untouched. It’s up to the Chief Transformation Officer to ensure that your company is the one that not only anticipates and survives these transformations, but also thrives during and after it. Only then can you turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage for your organization.