The CIO as creative disruptor: leading Purpose-Led Transformation

Mike KanazawaMike Kanazawa, Partner at EY’s US Innovation and Digital Strategy Practice and co-author of the transformation book, Big Ideas to Big Results, investigates the missing ingredient in most organizational changes.

If you tend to be satisfied with the status quo, you may not want to read any further.

CIOs are rightly concerned with the resilience and integrity of the organization’s systems. However, they are increasingly being asked to take a leadership role in transformation: questioning and disrupting the status quo to define a new future for the organization.

Transformation is a much-used word, and can mean many different things to different people. Here, we mean Purpose-Led Transformation. As we outlined in a previous post, Purpose-Led Transformation is one of the six lenses of transformation in EY’s Transformation Spectrum framework.

We define “purpose” as an organization’s clear reason for being. A strong purpose focuses the business strategy on delivering value and meaning for customers, employees and other stakeholders. In a recent survey conducted by EY and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 91% of respondents identified that their company has, or is working on developing, a purpose.

The CIO’s role in purpose

CIOs play a key role in Purpose-Led Transformation:

  • Strategic leadership: Purpose-Led Transformations engage the organization in thinking or rethinking about “why” the company exists and what value it brings to the market. The purpose for almost every company in every sector is being infused with new capabilities that center on technology. Mobile, social and cloud solutions, and smart-connected devices, are all being leveraged to change the nature of competition and the purpose of companies completely. CIOs and IT organizations must become strategic drivers of innovation, developing breakthrough solutions that ensure their companies achieve their purpose more quickly and with performance that is superior to their competitors. Otherwise, they face the risk of being disrupted.
  • Product and service innovation: as this shift occurs, IT is moving from a back-office function to being fully integrated into the value chain of the products and services of the business. For example, smoke alarms are becoming real-time safety and emergency networks to keep us safe. Cars are becoming mobile and robotic extensions of ourselves. Retail is becoming a personalized shopping service, bringing the world to our door. Taxi driver services are becoming viable elder-care transportation solutions, with the development of on-demand car apps for the elderly. All of this is driven by technology-infused business models, products and services.
  • Strategic intelligence: Purpose-Led Transformations establish an ambition and drive to provide greater value and benefit to customers, employees and stakeholders. The companies that are able to digitally “instrument” their customer, employee and stakeholder experiences, and quickly gather information on changing perceptions and trends as input to strategy, will be at a marked competitive advantage in the future.

Fulfilling these objectives requires a different mindset and approach from CIOs:

  • It means being proactive and spending time at the front end of the business, working with customer-facing product and service teams to identify the technology innovations proactively that will drive transformative change.
  • It means making time and room to tackle the strategic issues facing the business. For example, CIOs can leverage cloud technologies to provide commoditized infrastructure services, freeing up time and resources to spend on transformative change.
  • It means building a team that has the skills required to drive transformative change, shifting the balance from traditional skills — for example, systems integration — to areas such as data analytics.

The job of today’s CIO has shifted from building and maintaining information infrastructure to creating innovative and incremental value. Purpose has been a missing ingredient in the mix of business tools, processes, culture and system levers that IT leaders traditionally pulled to activate transformative change.

Rather than serving the needs of internal customers, progressive CIOs and their teams are using an exploration of purpose and its activation to drive an innovation partnership with their business counterparts and create disruptive approaches that delight customers in breakthrough ways.


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