1. From Functional to Transformational, and Beyond

The roles of a modern CIO

Kicking down walls. That’s the key to achieving success as a CIO in modern-day business. It means kicking down walls between systems and data. Between business and IT. And between the status quo and new mandates for agility and transformation. After all, Britain gave birth to punk, and punk was all about challenging established ways of doing things and creating a new culture.

So, how do tech leaders find the right formula to break down these dividing lines? It’s not easy. Almost 9 in 10 (85%) of UK-based CIOs in the 2018 IDG Research Survey continue to struggle to strike the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence. And many find their role to be more challenging than ever, in part because the CIO’s duties can be spread across three different roles: functional, transformational, and strategic.

“The challenge is for IT to be seen as a partner, and as a core part of the business, whereas five to ten years ago IT was just an internal provider.”

– Floriana Molone
Head of IT Customer Services and Deputy Director, London School of Economics

CIOs leading digital transformation

CIOs must continue to oversee traditional, functional responsibilities such as system maintenance and upgrades, negotiating with vendors, and initiating operational improvements. These are vital, keep-the-lights-on tasks that account for a small but important proportion of their agenda. Simultaneously, however, IT leaders are also leading digital transformation efforts and driving strategic initiatives in support of business innovation or competitive differentiation.

of CIOs find their role
more challenging than ever

Floriana Molone, Head of IT Customer Services and Deputy Director, London School of Economics, says, “The challenge of IT has always been keeping the balance of operations, and nowadays it’s more and more about innovation to enhance the business.

“The key things are for me to have the people on hand who can keep the operation running smoothly, and I’ve also created another function within IT where people engage with the business, bridging the gap between IT and the business, because it’s about keeping the right balance between the two.”

CIO: One Role, Multiple Responsibilities

CIOs are slowly shifting from a functional role to activities focused on transformation and strategy.
Toggle left and right to create an accurate breakdown of your role.

Your role in 2018:


UK CIOs in 2018:

44% Functional
26% Transformational
31% Strategic

Compare your results to other UK CIOs
UK-based CIOs are steadily shifting from a functional role to activities focused on transformation and strategy. In the next three to five years, functional CIOs, which currently account for 44%, will be in the minority, accounting for 21% of CIOs. The proportion of business strategists will increase from 31% to 39%. And transformational CIOs will rise from 26% to 41%.

It’s also worth noting that security will continue to be a high priority, crossing functional, transformational and strategic categories, with 88% of European CIOs now involved in security initiatives to a greater degree than in the past.
Source: IDG Research Survey 2018 – UK Results

CEOs are adding to the pressure on CIOs with a mounting set of expectations that straddle both strategy and tactics: The C-suite wants CIOs to strengthen the security of the enterprise whilst simultaneously reducing their IT spend and facilitating global growth.

The UK CEO’s top 3 priorities for their CIO

Upgrade IT and data security to avoid cyber-attack
Reduce IT spending
Enable global expansion
Source: 2018 IDG Research survey

“All roads to the future run through IT, so I have to run faster than my customers,” says Randall Gaboriault, CIO and SVP of innovation and strategic development at Christiana Care Health System, a health delivery services provider. “If I become a constraint, I become an obstacle, and then I become irrelevant.”

In Search of the ‘Perfect’ IT Environment

What’s the best chance for CIOs to re-establish both stability and relevance for enterprise IT? Savvy CIOs are collaborating with their business counterparts to create a strategic roadmap for Hybrid IT – a combination of traditional IT, managed services, and private and public cloud that is agile and scalable enough to support ever-changing business demands.

Jason Oliver, Director of ICT, Science Museum Group explains, “For me, moving from being a functional CIO to an innovation business strategist has been a progressive journey.

“We have to demonstrate, to begin with, competence and initiative and once we do that we start to grow trust with our wider peers. Once we’ve got a trust, we can build on that with credibility. When you are a support function, you get invited to meetings once a decision has been made. As things improve, and you become more of a strategic partner, you’re asked to come to those meetings. As you become an innovation leader, you’re the one calling those meetings.”

All CIOs aspire to create the “perfect” IT environment that optimises operations and charts a course toward digital transformation. A common misconception, however, is that “perfect” is defined by the cloud. In reality, legacy on-premises systems must remain part of the mix for most organisations because of security concerns, compliance obligations, or the desire to keep mission-critical applications in the data centre.

“Moving from being a functional CIO to an innovation business strategist has been a progressive journey.”

– Jason Oliver
Director of ICT, Science Museum Group

What does Hybrid IT mean for CIOs?

The beauty of a Hybrid IT model is the flexibility it provides CIOs to mix and match legacy systems, cutting-edge hyperconverged and composable infrastructures, and software-defined platforms as needed to deliver desired business results. The right mix is very much dependent on your organisation’s unique needs. But a successful Hybrid IT model is more than just a means to cost-savings or efficiencies; the proper infrastructure mix simplifies Hybrid IT and accelerates IT’s value by enabling a pace that is commensurate with today’s accelerated business cycles.

“Keeping the lights on is an important function as part of the IT team, but the thought leadership provision is a key role of the CIO.”

– Simon Iddon
Group CIO, The Restaurant Group PLC

Global IT infrastructure spending in 2020

Public cloud:
Private cloud:
Traditional on- premise:
Source: IDC

The IDG 2018 Research Survey 2018 found that CIOs are slowly shifting from a functional role to activities that are focused on business transformation and strategy. See how you compare to your peers below.

Key Play

1. The Shift

Take steps to spend less time on functional tasks and more time on strategic activities

As a CIO, it can be difficult to step up out of the ‘trenches’, working on those functional tasks, to spend more time focused on strategic activities that truly enable digital transformation. Review the below graphic below to see how you can make the shift.


IT operations
Managing costs

with vendors
out fires


and refining
Developing new
strategies and

View the key play highlights

Take a Deeper Dive into Hybrid IT

The Strategic CIO’s Playbook

Create a game plan for accelerating digital transformation with the right mix of Hybrid IT.