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Taking Charge as a General CIO to Lead Your Enterprise in the Digital Economy


​​​​​Digital disruption is profoundly changing the role of chief information officers as technology-enabled innovations such mobile platforms dramatically transform the way companies do business.

CIOs have the opportunity to redefine their roles and alter how technology drives value throughout their organization. According to U.S. technology and market research advisor Forrester Research, today’s CI​O takes on one of three roles, based on a company’s culture, business relationships and technology leadership: general, captain or soldier.

Although the CIO can shift between these roles based on the company culture, business relationships and technology leadership; the CIO typically defaults to one role.

The foundational skill set of a CIOs is to be a basic foot soldier of technology, focusing on delivery and business capabilities of a company’s network. ‘Soldiers’ are order takers who provide technology and project delivery to a company.

Next up in roles is ‘Captain.’ This role requires the CIO to focus on the realization of business outcomes, and as an extension of the soldier capabilities, means the CIO collaborates with business unit leaders for successful outcomes. The CIO in this role also works with business leaders to align the enterprise with IT.

Overseeing it all is the ‘General.’  The CIO in a General role focuses on introducing business change leading to digital disruption. This CIO builds on soldier and captain skills to act as an agent of change and introduce new visions to organizations leveraging most current technology and consumer trends.

According to the Gartner Business Value Model, the business service value chain supports the realization of business capabilities through business-to-IT alignment. This happens through business strategy that delivers an overall blueprint, as well as business process descriptions that rely on established frameworks. The alignment also occurs through business application delivery made through “appliance” and configurable software, as well as through infrastructure and foundational support.

CIO Engagement business service model

A key issue is how each CIO type delivers service value chain within the paradigm of IT and business services sourcing. The Soldier, The Captain and the General all need to introduce innovation and disruption, but each role will approach the business value chain differently.

The Soldier provides new business capabilities by introducing choices around strategy, architecture / frameworks, appliances and infrastructure. The Captain leverages broader and more strategic input based on dialog with business units and delivers capability within the paradigm of IT and business services sourcing. The Captain also works more collaboratively with business leaders, taking a more bi-directional strategy in sharing / exchanging information. He looks at innovation as it affects a multitude of levels; with business process, outsourcing solutions and customer engagement.

The General is the most heavily invested in change and the business service value chain model as he or she oversees the entire operation, sees the big picture and drives change as a means to better the business. The General introduces new, innovative and disruptive opportunities to the organization.

Today’s digital delivery space requires that CIOs move from the Soldier role to the General role. The General provides the most business value and success. Forrester predicts that by 2018 the number of Captain (30% => 50%) and General (10% => 20%) CIOs will need to almost double from what they were in 2014 in order to keep pace with the digital economy. From online streaming of movies to Uber’s transportation app, successful businesses must have agile processes to meet customer demands instantly – be that ordering a cab or downloading a current product list.

However, all apps require solid infrastructure support, such as order processing, inventory control and delivery capabilities. Privileged with the advantage of being involved in all of an enterprise’s core business processes and capabilities, a CIO General understands the implications of integrating new digital solutions with existing infrastructure, networks, systems and business capabilities.

This article was co-authored by Scott Greenlay and Brice Ominski​.

For more information contact:
Scott Greenlay, National Director, Technology Consulting
T: 204.775.4531
E: [email protected]

Brice Ominski, Senior Manager, Technology Consulting
T: 204.336.6131
E: [email protected]