From the art of the usual to the art of the possible: the CTO’s role is changing thanks to digital transformation

Forward-thinking firms have watched the runaway success of Uber, Netflix, Amazon and Airbnb and realise that winning companies are now driven by the transformative power of tech – regardless of the sector they operate in. And this is revolutionising the role of the CTO/CIO and empowering them to drive their businesses forwards in new ways.

But, in a world of fast-moving innovation, what does the ‘new’ CTO/CIO look like? How can they leverage digital transformation (DX) to drive performance? And, with so much technology at their disposal - from big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) through to cloud computing – how do they automate ‘lights on’ BAU tasks, freeing them to focus their DX efforts on initiatives that create competitive advantage?

Here, we profile four of the UK’s most progressive CIOs/CTOs, who are each leading the way in innovation and DX, and redefining what the ‘new’ normal of their role looks like.

Anna Barsby, Morrisons’ chief technology director

Taking the helm of a new tech innovation team, Barsby has initiated major moves into cloud, digital and data, all with the aim of creating a first-class back-end infrastructure to support Morrisons’ customer-facing touchpoints.

Further cutting-edge innovation at the supermarket under her watch includes the introduction of an AI-driven ordering system, rolled out across the retailer's 491 stores, which has lowered stock holding and improved availability. Forging ahead with voice commerce capabilities, Morrisons is also now the first of the big four to integrate online grocery shopping with Amazon Alexa.

Chily Fachler, Steinhoff’s chief information officer

Fachler has led the innovation trail at Steinhoff’s Bensons for Beds and Harvey’s brands since 2017, as the traditional furniture retailer group looks to transform digitally.

Recent achievements include introducing mobile point of sale - giving its 2,000 staff a single view of the customer - warehouse management technology to drive efficiencies, and delivery optimisation. Fachler is also leveraging augmented reality (AR) capabilities, with an app that includes a AR / VR room planner.

Mark Holt, chief technology officer at the Trainline

Holt has got onboard with the power of predictive analytics to drive business innovation at the Trainline, taking it out of tech into marketing, finance and HR, and into the hands of customers.

A crowdsourced seat availability platform, rail price movement predictors and a journey planner that offers customers £620m a year of cheaper rail fares are just some of the customer-facing innovations he’s led. Similarly, the Trainline’s Google Home voice app, which relies on predictive analytics, is so good Google uses it to demonstrate its own product – a testament to its transformative capabilities.

Nick Burton, Belron’s chief information officer

Burton, CIO of the vehicle glass repair and replacement firm, has harnessed the power of DX to achieve best-in-class customer experience (CX) across Belron’s global business.

He’s implemented a universal data hub which joins data across devices and channels, introduced an AI-powered telephony system to take appointment bookings, and allowed customers to track their mobile technician as they arrive to a job. CX is a core output in Burton’s tech strategy, with an AI-enabled apps that allow customers to self-diagnose repair work using photos taken on their mobile device.

The CTO, version 3.0

These examples – and our work with over 50 IT teams during the last 3 years – show that technology is no longer a neatly defined and siloed department but now needs to be at the heart of any business strategy– and the role of the new CTO/CIO is changing to reflect this.

No longer a chief technology officer but a chief transformation officer, these newly reimagined roles are allowing tech and IT leaders to harness emerging innovation to help every business process and function communicate, collaborate and innovate, in order to drive performance.

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