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CIOs must be willing to tackle challenges, and to support digital transformation, they have to be willing to fail

The modern CIO’s role is changing–here’s how to keep up


CIOs must be willing to tackle challenges, and to support digital transformation, they have to be willing to fail

Key points:

Eighty-eight percent of CIOs say their role is becoming more digital and is increasingly focused on innovation, which begs the question: How is education, a notoriously slow industry, going to keep pace with digital transformation?

During a session at FETC 2024, Marlon Shears, CIO of IDEA Public Schools, offered a realistic view of what CIOs across all sectors are prioritizing and how digital transformation is driving changes and investments in education.

Defining digital transformation, though, isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because digital transformation will look different for every organization. But while there’s no set definition, in general, such transformation can be defined as the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, creating fundamental change around how business operates and how the business delivers value to stakeholders, Shears said.

But to drive this transformation, CIOs must challenge the status quo and must be comfortable with failure, Shears said.

“You must challenge, ‘We don’t do that here,’” he said. “You have to become the leader who challenges that. You may not always be liked, but you have to build a culture where you can lean in and trust one another to take on that digital transformation. It’s not an overnight success story.”

In pursuit of transformation, CIOs must be comfortable with failure. “This is one of the hardest ones,” Shears added. “No one’s perfect when you’re trying to change, integrate, and do different things to bring value into your organization. If we’re not comfortable failing, if the organization isn’t comfortable with us failing, are we really doing digital transformation? You have to push that to your superintendent.”

CIOs across other industries are prioritizing AI—80 percent are spending their time on AI and machine learning, up from 55 percent in 2023, according to new research on CIOs. Seventy percent are focused on cybersecurity, and 61 percent are focused on data privacy and compliance.

Challenges include staffing and skills shortages, changing business conditions, addressing security threats, and budgetary constraints/demonstrating ROI.

CIOs are looking for their tech budgets to increase in 2024, citing needs for security improvements, to keep pace with rising costs of tech and services, investments in emerging technologies such as AI, investments in new skills and talent, and modernizing or migrating infrastructure.

“Digital transformation isn’t just computers–it’s how to get your organization to the next level,” he said. “This is something we’ve all started, but we also need to know where we want to go. It means bold choices.”

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