Unleashing The Power Of IT Leadership: Revolutionizing The Business Landscape In The Digital Age

By Brian Greenberg, CIO/CTO, Partner at Fortium Partners.
This article first appears on Forbes on 5/22/2023.

The landscape of modern business is in an ongoing state of flux, driven by rapid technological advancements and evolving customer expectations. As organizations adapt to this new reality, IT leadership has become critical to business success. The evolving role of IT leaders, including Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), has transformed significantly in recent years to keep pace with these changes.

The Expanding Role Of IT Leadership

In the past, the role of IT leadership was primarily focused on maintaining an organization’s technical infrastructure. However, as businesses increasingly rely on technology to drive growth and innovation, the responsibilities of IT leaders have evolved to encompass strategic planning and alignment with broader business objectives.

Today, IT leaders must ensure that the organization’s technical infrastructure is up-to-date and secure and drive innovation and digital transformation initiatives contributing to its bottom line. Additionally, growing cybersecurity threats and the need for effective data management have further expanded the responsibilities of IT leaders. Today, they are expected to:

  • Drive digital transformation: IT leaders must proactively lead initiatives that improve operational efficiency, enhance customer experiences, create competitive advantage, and create new revenue streams.
  • Align IT with business strategy: IT leaders must collaborate with other executives and communicate with the board to develop a cohesive strategy that aligns IT initiatives with broader business goals.
  • Foster innovation: IT leaders must create an environment encouraging learning, innovation, and experimentation, helping their organizations stay ahead of the competition, evolve with endlessly changing technology, and adapt to varying market conditions.
  • Manage IT talent: IT leaders must develop strategies to attract, retain, and develop top IT talent, ensuring their organizations have the necessary skills and culture to remain competitive.
  • Act as change agents: IT leaders cannot be shy in driving change and helping their organizations adapt to new technologies, processes, and business models.

Key Drivers Of The Evolving Role Of IT Leadership

Several factors are driving the evolution of IT leadership in today’s business world.

  • Digital transformation: As organizations adopt new technologies and add to their digital toolsets, IT leaders must guide their teams in successfully implementing and integrating these solutions, ensuring they deliver tangible business value.
  • Cybersecurity and data privacy: The exceptionally high number of cyberattacks and data breaches has underscored the importance of robust cybersecurity measures. IT leaders must prioritize data protection and confidentiality to maintain customer trust and comply with increasing regulatory requirements.
  • Cloud computing and infrastructure management: Cloud computing has revolutionized how businesses grow and manage their IT infrastructure, from platforms and infrastructure-as-a-service like AWS and Azure to software-as-a-service offerings such as SalesForce, Google, and ZenDesk. IT leaders must navigate the complex landscape, strategically leveraging what the cloud offers and ensuring their organizations can scale and adapt to changing needs.
  • Analytics and data-driven decision-making: The growing emphasis on data-driven decision-making has made it essential for IT leaders to harness the power of data analytics and AI to drive business insights and support strategic planning.
  • The need for agility and speed: Organizations have had to adapt to abrupt market changes in an increasingly complex world. IT leaders must ensure their teams can quickly adapt to new technologies and processes, enabling the organization to stay ahead of the competition.

The Importance Of Soft Skills For IT Leaders

While technical expertise remains crucial for IT leaders, the evolving role of IT leadership demands a broader skill set. Soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and change management have become increasingly important in today’s business world. IT leaders must be able to:

  • Communicate effectively: IT leaders must be able to communicate complex technical concepts and strategies to non-technical stakeholders, ensuring everyone is aligned and working toward common goals.
  • Build strong relationships: IT leaders must cultivate strong relationships with other business leaders, fostering collaboration and promoting a shared understanding of strategic objectives.
  • Lead and inspire teams: IT leaders should be able to inspire and motivate their teams, driving them to perform at their best and embrace change.
  • Manage conflict and negotiate: Conflict resolution and negotiation skills are essential for IT leaders as they navigate competing priorities, limited resources, and diverse stakeholder interests.
  • Embrace change and adaptability: IT leaders must be adaptable, open to new ideas, and willing to embrace change as they lead their organizations through digital transformation and other strategic initiatives.

Preparing For The Future Of IT Leadership

As the role of IT leadership continues to evolve, IT leaders must be prepared to face new challenges and seize emerging opportunities. Here are some steps they can take to prepare for the future.

  • Invest in professional development: IT leaders should continuously invest in their professional development, staying current with the latest technologies, trends, and best practices.
  • Develop a strategic mindset: IT leaders must think strategically, looking beyond day-to-day operations to identify opportunities for growth and improvement.
  • Strengthen emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is critical to effective leadership. IT leaders should develop self-awareness, empathy, and relationship management skills.
  • Collaborate with other business functions: IT leaders must work closely with other business leaders, such as marketing, finance, and human resources, to create synergies and ensure IT initiatives align with broader organizational goals.
  • Be a continuous learner: IT leaders should embrace a growth and learning forward mindset and be open to learning from failures and successes, using these experiences to inform their decision-making and leadership approaches.

The role of IT leadership in today’s business world is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by factors such as digital transformation, cybersecurity, cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the need for agility. As a result, IT leaders must adapt to these changes by developing new skills, embracing a strategic mindset, and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration. By doing so, IT leaders can ensure they remain relevant and effective, driving their organizations toward success in the digital age.

About Brian Greenberg

Brian Greenberg is a technology and product leader, Forbes contributor, and is a member of the Forbes Technology Council. He lives in Chicago and has been working at companies of all sizes from the Fortune 100 to startups for over 30 years including international experience as an expatriate in Japan and Europe. In addition to being part of the Adjunct Faculty in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University, Brian Greenberg is an award winning CIO & CTO, considered a dynamic, entrepreneurial, and visionary leader, accomplished at strategic planning, process improvement, product development, and reengineering of key business processes. Highly successful in achieving financial results through strong customer loyalty and long term relationships with suppliers and vendors. Ability to achieve business results through strategic application of technology to business challenges. Readily pursues "stretch goals", not afraid to take risks, and is grounded in a strong teamwork approach. Regarded as a skilled communicator, team builder and negotiator who maximizes efficiencies and productivity through boosting employee morale and performance. Brian Greenberg has expertise in digital transformation, automation, turnaround management, security, data storage, and data protection. He is also a storyteller and an improvisor in Chicago’s comedy community.