The job of the CIO has traditionally been to oversee the design, development, and management of IT systems for the internal use of the CIO’s company. Recently, however, CIOs have begun to branch out into the development of solutions that can be remarketed to other companies.

The CIO provides a vital function: creating and running the infrastructure for their company’s digital operations. The systems for gathering, analyzing, and disseminating data have assumed growing importance as technology has advanced and spread into all parts of the enterprise.

As part of the digital transformation of recent years, CIOs have become essential players in the delivery of products and services to customers. Many products and services today are entirely digital and are delivered digitally; for physical products, more of the marketing and sales functions have transitioned to the digital domain, where aspects like the e-commerce storefront are an integral part of the product delivery process and are considered part of the product development process. CIOs are responsible for the IT infrastructure that supports digital marketing, e-commerce, online customer service, and delivery of digital products themselves.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs for social isolation, work from home, and business continuity have only accelerated the shift to digital operations. With much of their companies’ workforces operating remotely and interactions with customers and vendors shifting online, CIOs have been exposed to more of the external aspects of company operations.

Consequently, CIOs have been put into the position of developing software and services to support their companies’ distributed operations. Some of these CIOs and their companies have realized that many other organizations are in similar situations with the same needs. They have teamed up with their product development teams to package their internal solutions as products that they can sell to external customers.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Jason Conyard, CIO at cloud-software maker VMware Inc., said, “The lines between these two disciplines have blurred. The pandemic certainly accelerated this trend.” Previously, the CIO would not have been consulted on product development or volunteered to provide expertise to design new products. Now, CIOs are taking an active role in driving new product development for IT solutions. Some are even applying for and getting patents on these solutions to support their commercial potential.

At VMware, this collaboration of the CIO and the product development team created Anywhere Workspace. This product allows enterprises to empower a distributed workforce, automate the workspace, and secure the distributed edge. These are all needs that Mr. Conyard’s team identified for VMware soon after the shift to work from home in 2020. Where in the past, VMware would have been satisfied with having a solution that kept its workforce secure and productive in the transition to work from home, they realized in 2020 that other enterprises would be willing to pay for the same solution for their newly-distributed operations.

International Data Group’s 2021 State of the CIO survey of IT leaders found that 68% of CIOs see revenue-generating activities as part of their role, with the number rising to 81% among tech company CIOs. Of these, a little over half said they were responsible for managing a revenue-generating team, and the rest said they actively participated in revenue-generating teams.

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To keep up with this shifting role, CIOs and other high-tech leaders need to update their skill sets to include design thinking, digital transformation management, and Agile project management.  Simplilearn offers a range of courses and programs in these areas, including the Digital Project Manager Master’s Program, Master’s Program in Design Thinking, and the Post Graduate Program in Digital Transformation. These programs provide CIOs and high-tech executives with the skills they need to meet the challenges of their evolving roles and responsibilities.

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