Do you need a CIO?

Inside Franchise Business: does your business need a CIO?Since the creation of the chief information officer role businesses of all sizes have started asking the same question? What is a CIO? Do we need one? What value can it bring my business? Can we afford it?

Here we explore why a CIO may be exactly what your business needs and how it is within reach of SMEs.

Technology is not an optional extra these days – it is the core of each and every business, and with technology brings change and the need for innovation to stay ahead of the game.  

The IT department is dead

Technology no longer begins and ends with everyone having a computer and access to the photocopier. Inspirational, driven and responsive businesses today view themselves as marketing and technology enablers.

The digital revolution has transformed the DNA of those businesses who have adopted its smarts and capitalised their business model, customer experience and value proposition seamlessly within today’s mature world of all things technology. Ultimately, technology should seek to serve the customer’s journey, not simply the needs of employees.

Technology should be a critical part of your business plan

Like any part of your business, it is vital to have goals around the use of technology as part of your business planning to ensure that technology is improving operational workflows to:

  • maximise productivity
  • automate tasks
  • increase customer experience
  • redeploy staff to new value-add tasks compared to redundant ones

Understanding the role technology plays in your business and setting goals around resources is good practice – the size of the business makes no difference. This is an essential part of business planning.  

Furthermore, as the storage, transmittal and analysis of electronic information grows in importance, these factors must be considered as critical issues in need of leadership and adherence to compliance.  

With so much at stake, it is critical that we evolve technology from that of simply being one function within a business to a broad-based, collaborative role responsible for innovating and managing the technology of your business – the Chief Information Officer.

Hiring your CIO

What are you looking for in a CIO?

  • Leadership skills with a focus on collaboration. This role will touch every part of the business and a CIO must be able to articulate a vision and lead the team to realise that vision.

  • Change management skills to ensure system, data and IT change is landed effectively

  • A solid IT background and knowledge to manage large-scale projects

  • A natural curiosity, with a thirst for the latest trends and emerging technology  

  • Expertise and knowledge in compliance systems, data collection, data analysis and IT security

  • Solutions-focused to look at the short, medium and long-term needs of a business

In most businesses, a CIO will report to a chief executive officer or similar role but it is important to keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a full-time role. That is simply not practical for an SME but in today’s world of ‘gig’ employment resourcing, there are options to bring in the resources they need to fulfil the tasks of a CIO, or to make it part of another job function of an existing team member.

…and installing a team behind them

A CIO shouldn’t operate in a silo. It is important to take a ‘team’ approach to ensuring that technology is driving better customer experience and efficiencies in the workplace, with representation from different functions, including:

  • Marketing and public relations – to drive innovation in tools such as websites, social media platforms as well as data management and privacy.
  • Human resource management – automation and workflow will likely change job descriptions and resource needs.
  • Product development and business development – innovation must be at the heart of new product offerings with a focus on customer experience.
  • Finance and accounting – new payment options, software and automation are likely to impact on any internal procedures and actions within this space.

The bottom line

While the idea of a CIO seems like a ‘luxury’ or something only afforded to big business but by treating innovation as a business function, it may just be the edge you need to enhance products, customer experience, employee engagement and productivity.