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The CIO as the Chief Integration Officer

Over the last 100 years, business models have evolved. Much of this evolution has been driven by innovations in technology, including the automobile, airplane, television, mainframe computers and smartphones. These have enabled commerce to expand from local, to regional, to national and, more recently, to global. However, it’s not that one replaces the other, rather, it’s one building on top of the other. The journey must be additive, because businesses need to be responsive to customers that span from local to global.

The Rise of a New Business Model

This evolution of innovation has created a new hybrid business model that’s neither centralized or decentralized. These models are more federated around capabilities that are common and others that are unique. Along with these new models, new functions have emerged, and a new set of executive leadership has evolved. We now have Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), CFOs, COOs, CHROs and a whole new set of various “Chief ________ Officers” heading up such areas as Digital, Data, Analytics, Product, Transformation, Innovation, Customer and Security. These “Chiefs” now dominate the boardroom and strategic dialogue. However, no function has grown faster, and has needed to evolve more, than the CIO.

The Progression From Back-Office to Front and Center

During my 50-plus-year career, we’ve evolved from back-office Accounting Automation in the 1960s and 1970s, to mid-office VP MIS (manufacturing/distribution) in the 1980s and 1990s, to front-of-the-house CIO in recent decades. The shift from being somewhere in the middle to front and center has been heavily influenced by the internet and its ability to rapidly change an entire industry seemingly overnight. This means we now have a critical and well-earned “seat at the table “.

The CIO Role Evolves One Step Further

After six decades, our role has evolved once again as we move from traditional line-of-business and functional systems to a digital, pervasive and seamlessly connected era. In our role, we have to continue to provide strong, functional capabilities to our line-of-business and department leader peers. However, winning in the future requires us to provide the “connective tissue” to be able to sense and respond between business units, functions, products, geographies and customers.

Now, in the age of the customer and global commerce, functional excellence is only table stakes. It’s cross-functional excellence that’s the key to thriving, and that’s all about seamless integration and a connection between the brain (data/AI) and all parts of the body (functions) at speed and scale. To achieve this, you must first identify the 30 game changers in your organization, as they are crucial to the success of any major initiative.

Regardless of how many “Chiefs” show up in your company’s org chart or boardroom, our distinct role, as CIOs, is to build this “Nervous System” or “Digital Integration Highway” that enables the enterprise to compete in the modern era. That’s been the basis of our push for the last decade (see my book Blind Spot: A Leader’s Guide to IT-Enabled Business Transformation) to evolve our title once more from Chief Information Officer to Chief INTEGRATION Officer. After all, winning is all about integration.

Author: Charlie Feld, Founder, The Feld Group Institute
Connect with Charlie Feld on LinkedIn

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Russell Villemez

Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute

Head of Technology Strategy, Dialexa – a Feld Group Institute partner

Highly regarded CTO and change agent with IT strategy and enterprise architecture expertise.

Russell Villemez is an Affiliate with the Feld Group Institute and the head of Technology Strategy at Dialexa, a Technology Research, Design and Creation firm that works with organizations on initiatives such as Operational Transformation, Business Growth, and New Venture Creation.

During 17 years in operational roles and 15 years in consulting roles, Russell has worked across a variety of industries in both executive leadership positions and as a subject matter expert. Russell thrives on the scale and complexity of leading major change agendas in large corporate environments.

Recent consulting clients include AmerisourceBergen, the American Automobile Association, Brinker International, Cubic, Equifax, and Cox Automotive. A common thread is the client’s need for strong leadership during a period of change—whether motivated by acquisitions, spin-offs, competitive pressures, or other factors. Clients also benefit from Russell’s expertise in enterprise architecture, agile development, application portfolio rationalization, technology and architecture strategy, as well as business strategy and commercial software product development.

Recognized as a versatile IT executive, adept at solving complex problems with innovative solutions, Russell’s capabilities and achievements span a continuum from business-strategy formation to hands-on IT solution development. His extensive career achievements include pioneering the first use of relational databases in high-volume transaction systems in the ‘80s, applying voice recognition DSPs in public intelligent network services for consumer markets in the ‘90s, and leading large-scale adoptions of open systems, object technology, and middleware frameworks in complex business environments, often in advance of commercially available software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Russell served at HP as Enterprise Services Chief Technology Officer for the Americas, leading a global capability for embedded Account CTOs in large enterprises. Russell began his career at Accenture, where he first crafted his consultative problem-solving approach, later honed at A.T. Kearny and the Feld Group. Russell’s deep telecom experience is built upon numerous director and enterprise architect positions at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Telstra, US West, Pacific Bell, and Sprint, and as V.P. and CIO for WebLink Wireless.

Russell has a BS in Business Administration from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. In his spare time, Russell participates in amateur auto racing, and is a driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.