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Telecom CIO’s need to evolve along with technology

This is one of the most exciting times to be a CIO because of the enormous opportunity that the CIO and her team has to become the leaders of organizational change and transformation. Technology is growing by leaps and bounds, business fundamentals are shifting, and global turmoil (pandemic, economic crises, climate change, geo-political issues, to name a few) are forcing organizations to look at IT as the savior that can lead the business to success. This is no different in the telecom industry.

Indian telecom organizations are facing multiple challenges in this period of intense competition, and technology will take center stage in driving differentiation and growth. The Indian telecom industry is highly competitive, and telecom vendors face the challenge of finding ways to differentiate their services and remain competitive in the market. The need to upgrade networks, maintain compliance, manage data and privacy, deal with increasing cyber-security threats, all while trying to meet the expectations of an increasingly digital-savvy customer base, is keeping many a business executive up at night. Omdia’s research shows that, unfortunately, only less than 25 percent of Indian telecom companies are well equipped and sufficiently advanced in their digital transformation to be able to address these challenges.

Omdia recommends that telecom organizations should consider:

  • Investing in technologies, such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing to create differentiation and remain competitive.
  • Adopting a network-as-a-service model to reduce the cost and complexity of network management and maintenance.
  • Modernizing legacy systems by integrating them with newer technology and using cloud-based solutions.
  • Embracing digital transformation by adopting digital technologies, such as big data analytics, machine learning, and the Internet of Things to drive informed decision making, increase efficiency, and better serve customers.
  • Fostering a culture of innovation by encouraging employees to think creatively, experiment with new ideas, and find new ways to overcome challenges.

Implementing the above will require CEOs to rely heavily on the CIO for implementing their strategies. Indeed, in our conversations, we have seen that in many organizations the CIO is the CEO’s confidant and has greater input into organizational strategy than at any time in the past decade. This requires CIOs to have a strong understanding of business value and value creation while also being adept at leading high-performing, agile teams that can stay ahead of the technology curve.

Some of the most pressing asks from a CIO are:

  • CIOs will need to take on more business leadership roles. The upheaval of the pandemic has shown that technology is central to business – not only digital business, but all business. With technology being the primary driver of new product development and customer experiences, the CIO has a significant role to play in nurturing the strategic connections needed for revenue generation. The CIO has to work closely with peers from marketing and sales, finance, and human resources to operationalize growth at scale through repeatable processes that can be replicated to drive predictable revenue and growth.
    Sustainability initiatives are inherently technology driven. Sustainability is now a key performance requirement for most executives. CIOs are uniquely positioned in that they have access to data from across the business and can derive impactful insights to drive sustainability decisions. Moreover, ICT technology and infrastructure investments can be leveraged to enable improved sustainability throughout the organization.
    Capabilities are the new driver of agility and resilience. Climate change, geopolitical turmoil, migration, market shifts, and economic turbulence will all force businesses to react to ongoing disruption. Capabilities are a blend of vision, skills, knowledge, resources, and capacity – they dictate what an enterprise can do and since ICT is central to the business, the CIO will be tasked with building capabilities to enhance agility, resilience, innovation, and competitiveness in the enterprise.
    Customer-centricity. Most customer experience (CX) activities are now digital and increasingly rely on creating real connections by making technology feel more human and empowering employees to create better customer experiences. CIOs not only supply the technology that enables these customer interfaces, but they also are central to information flow involving the customer. This requires ICT and CIOs to take a leading role in enabling new technologies and streamlining business processes.

To be a transformational leader and a successful change agent in the digital age, CIOs need to embrace the dual role they will have to play – one as the font of technical wisdom for the enterprise and the other as the evangelist, orchestrator, and engineer of change in the organization. A report published by the MIT Sloan Management Review in 2021 claimed that only one in four CEOs and one in eight CFOs is technically savvy and understands the potential implications of emerging technology on the business. The CIO has the unique position of being the purveyor of technology that touches every aspect of the business and should become an evangelist for technology among the C-suite, helping the business as a whole identify digital investments that have the potential to promote breakthrough performance.

The key element here is to build an ecosystem both within the organization and with suppliers as no single person or department can do everything alone. The CIO should work with other C-suite partners to foster a culture that embraces collaboration, by bringing together IT and business leaders, and building partnerships across functional areas the organization can maximize opportunities to succeed with and through others. This requires admitting that there are others – partners, vendors, competitors, or colleagues – who may know more about specific technologies, and creating a knowledge network that can be leveraged on a regular basis. It is important, however, to avoid a slapdash approach to learning and avoid getting hung-up on buzzwords and bandwagons, instead focus on understanding how potential difference-making technologies can impact their business. This is an incredible opportunity for Indian telecom CIOs to become the orchestrator of business growth and competitiveness – an opportunity that they should rise up to and guide their businesses to success through the deliberate and effective use of technology.

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