Friday, January 22, 2021
Business

The CIO’s next key role: Change agent

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February 26, 2020, looms large for Carol Juel for a number of reasons. It was her twins’ seventh birthday, and the executive vice president and CIO of Synchrony was scrambling to get home to join the festivities. The day also took on new contours as a routine meeting exploring AWS Workspace technology subsequently laid the groundwork for the firm’s near-real-time transition to remote work as COVID-19 took hold as a global pandemic.

Synchrony sent its 4,000 knowledge workers home on March 13 and followed up with a plan that set up 12,000 call center employees with remote operations a scant two weeks later. Shortly thereafter, Juel and the executive leadership team formally launched an enterprise transformation effort to embrace the very agile business practices that got the remote work effort up and running so quickly. Their goal: to favorably position Synchrony to quickly adapt as it stared down a future of continuously changing scenarios and uncertain markets.

Carol Juel, executive vice president and CIO, SynchronyCarol Juel, executive vice president and CIO, Synchrony

“It was a logistics and communications exercise, but also a leadership exercise,” she says. “It’s not just about technology; it’s about an agile mindset and the cultural changes that allow for digital transformation. The role of the CIO is to connect those dots and help the organization move and adapt quickly.”

As Juel’s experience shows, digital transformation has catapulted CIOs into the epicenter of organizational change, not just as a cheerleader for technology, but as a key change agent for promoting the cultural shifts necessary for successful transformation. According to CIO.com’s 2020 State of the CIO research, CIOs are spending more time on transformational responsibilities (89%) and business strategist work (67%), including leading change efforts (34%).

While playing a hand in organizational and cultural change isn’t exactly new to the CIO role, it’s newly important as the pace of digital efforts steps up and the pandemic forces massive shifts in day-to-day business operations, the future of work, and how companies engage with customers and business partners.

“The role of the CIO is to move the organization from thinking about building digital strategies to building a strategy that works for a digital world,” says Randy Gaboriault, CIO and senior vice president for innovation and strategic development at Christiana Care Health System. “CIOs don’t just implement technology; they implement organizational change through applications or technologies. What you’re trying to do when putting in a new ERP system or electronic health record is asking people to change their behavior.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.



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