How can candidates prepare for executive success in IT?

It’s not just entry-level jobs that will evolve as IT investment increases. Here’s how IT candidates can expect executive roles to change.exec

For candidates with long-term ambitions in the IT industry, it’s important to understand the evolving role of the C-Suite in directing a company’s technology expenditure.

The IT department no longer exists in a vacuum in the world’s organisations, and the growing links between technology investment and overall strategy could change the way candidates rise through the ranks of the business.

From cybersecurity concerns to managing an organisation’s digital transformation, executive roles are becoming more about merging technology with strategy, ensuring businesses remain competitive in their respective industries.

However, these trends are still evolving, which can make it hard for businesses to gain a clear idea of how executives will lead technology investment in the future. What do candidates need to know?

Executives struggle to focus on digital business

Candidates looking for their future roles in the upper levels of organisations need to be aware of the challenges they could face, and learn from those who have been leaders before them. A recent report by Ernst & Young (EY) found that many executives are still challenged by the increasing focus on digital business initiatives, and could be compromising their organisation’s performance.

The organisation found that while the level of collaboration between CEOs and CFOs is increasing, these partnerships are often ignoring the need to focus on digital changes within the businesses they oversee.

According to EY’s survey, many CFOs realise the importance of having a digital focus, yet are not clear on what their role is in this transformation. On top of this, just 50 per cent of the executives EY surveyed will make digital transformation their top priority. EY’s Oceania Assurance leader Mike Wright states these attitudes mean CFOs neglect many of the trends likely to benefit businesses.

“Digital has the power to transform organisations from market leaders to irrelevance in a frighteningly short timeframe,” he explained. “CFOs who don’t embrace this shift will be caught playing catch-up as their competition takes advantage of the digital culture to gain traction in the market.”

For CFOs to adapt to these challenges effectively, EY advises that a trusting and collaborative relationship with CEOs is essential.

New executive opportunities are opening up

It’s just the focus of current C-Suite members that will change, but the overall composition of these boards as well. The growing focus on the value of data and supporting analytics and security process is leading many organisations to consider the advantages of employing a chief data officer (CDO).

Technology research firm Gartner investigated the way these trends are evolving, and what this means for the future of IT workforces within businesses. According to the organisations, the sudden push to bring data concerns into the C-Suite has been prompted by the realisation that this digital information is now an essential part of business strategy.

Gartner noted this is now happening on an “industrial” scale, as businesses now have access to vast quantities of data that can swiftly become overwhelming without an effective strategy in place. Not only do businesses need to be able to collect this data, it needs to be secure and there must be a targeted direction for its use.

As Research Vice President Mario Faria explained, this focus needs to come from the C-Suite, and is likely to dictate hiring and promotion trends for the foreseeable future.

“With the explosion of datasets everywhere, an important task is determining which information can add business value, drive efficiency or improve risk management,” he said. “The CDO’s role will raise expectations of better results from an enterprise information management strategy, with stakeholders wanting a clear idea of the exact mechanics of making success a reality.”

The rise of the IT ecosystem

IDC is predicting that the collection of IT workers in a business will become much more than just a department. Instead, the organisation refers to the “IT ecosystem” that will stretch from the C-Suite to the external suppliers businesses may employ.

This terminology reflects the growing influence of IT roles on wider business objectives and reinforces the need for ongoing collaboration among different teams within an organisation. IDC believes that chief information officers (CIO) will have an important part to play in developing these strategies, as they will be in charge of supporting the relationships between IT teams and other stakeholders.

Research Manager Mark Yates believes CIOs need to focus their roles, work out what they can do for an organisation, and what they need to delegate to other employees.

“They know they cannot be all things to all people – they do not have the time or the expertise,” he explained. “Like many IT suppliers, CIOs are therefore migrating either consciously or subconsciously to a platform model, whereby they create an IT ecosystem that allows lines of business to leverage IT for tools development, application deployment, and larger-scale innovation.”

The demands for increased IT investment will bring many changes to the way businesses function, and are likely to force executive roles to evolve accordingly in the future.