Sanjiv Gossain, SVP & UK Managing Director, Cognizant

Businesses are currently facing a conundrum. While IT departments increasingly have to do more with less to cut costs, they also have to innovate to remain competitive. This is partly due to the influx of more nimble start-ups that are shaking up more established players by being more adaptive to change.

Sanjiv Gossain, Svp & UK Managing Director, Cognizant
Sanjiv Gossain, Svp & UK Managing Director, Cognizant

In the past, the primary role of the CIO was to take responsibility for a business’ IT infrastructure and to ensure it complied with general enterprise goals. This role has changed almost beyond recognition with the explosion of BYOD and cloud computing forcing CIOs to take on more responsibility than ever. Now the role of a CIO is to manage both technology and business information in order to remain competitive, according to a Gartner report. While before, it was their role to protect the status quo, and “keep the lights on”, whereas today CIOs need to seek out and embrace innovation in business and technology.

CIOs now need to ensure that people, processes and technology are aligned to bring the business forward – it is not a case of replacing old with new but instilling transformation (large or small) at every level. This increased responsibility means CIOs, and their teams, need to hone new skills in various areas.

Specifically, they have to gain experience in innovation, prove the value of technology and new ideas to the business, generate new ideas (while encouraging other departments and employees to do so) and implement them quickly. CIOs need to be willing to take some risks and quickly learn from their mistakes. To meet these challenges, instilling a “start-up” culture will encourage creativity within to become more agile and respond to consumer and market changes. But how do you go about doing this?


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In order to stand out from the competition, CIOs have to run their businesses both better and differently; not just looking for the opportunities created by the latest most innovative technologies, but actively developing new technologies to create these opportunities. It is up to the CIO to cultivate a culture among employees to ensure that they feel inspired to develop and embrace technologies that will help the business as well as enriching their own careers. For example, CIOs could set up discussion forums or brainstorming sessions for employees to put forward suggestions on how to improve the business or even set aside time for employees to work on personal innovative projects that will in turn benefit the business.

In addition, CIOs must have their fingers on the pulse and be willing to explore any new disruptive technologies such as social, mobile analytics and cloud (SMAC) that could help transform their business. There has been much discussion around the benefits of Google Glass for the enterprise, for instance in helping businesses identify opportunities to enhance customer service. Innovation like this role centres on agility, a willingness to take risks and to be forward-thinking. It is this kind of technological opportunity that CIOs must learn to identify in order to drive business innovation.

The rate at which technology is developing can be overwhelming, but CIOs must see it as a business opportunity, otherwise risk getting left behind by the competition, or even in their own organisation. As innovation is becoming increasingly dominated by technology, it is the role of the CIO to exploit these opportunities and become the harbinger of change.