Most enterprises are transforming themselves holistically with the digital transformation at forefront. Those far ahead on the transformation maturity curve will seek to reinvent themselves and the next wave of disruption will soon be upon us. Enterprises that are yet to embark on their transformation journey or are way behind need to rebuild their technology leadership quickly to accelerate and catch up.

Looking back, the digital revolution that started towards the end of the 19th century continued throughout the 20th century at a steady pace and accelerated during the 1990s. Consequently, the first decade of the 2000's saw a dramatic rise in two technology-centric leadership offices: the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Depending on the industry, or organization, these offices consist of different responsibilities. Generally speaking, a CIO is responsible for technologies that run a business internally while a CTO is responsible for technologies that grow the business externally.

The CIO focuses primarily on managing company’s IT development and maintenance and is good at organisation and command. As the IT moves out of the enterprise and into the cloud, there will be very little IT to manage in-house. The CIO role will jointly lead the transformation initiatives with the business and also continue to keep the lights on. Cloud based technology estate certainly takes away the pain associated with in-house IT, but it introduces new challenges. The CIO role will change into specialized Cloud CIO role focused on digital transformation. 

Traditionally, CTOs kept track of external IT trends, policies, and procedures critical to developing or improving a company’s products and services. In a technology product and service organisation, this role becomes critical as the CTO becomes the spokesperson for organisation’s product offerings. In such organisations, the CTO also defines the strategic direction for the product development. As the gap between business and technology reduces, this role will morph into a transformational and innovation centric role.

The digital revolution shows no sign of slowing down. Today when it comes to digital technologies, enterprises are spoilt for choice. They want everything that their peers have and something that their peers don't have. They want all this now with as little pain as possible. Additionally, there is a baggage of legacy estate that cannot be shed quickly enough. This cannot be achieved by hurling the best and the newest at the problem or by jumping at every new buzzword that comes along. Enterprises need technology savvy business leaders who can oversee their digital strategies and drive change across the business. They need business aware technology leaders who can make the right choices from the ubiquitous technology options and get them to work together to realize the vision. 

Over the past few years, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role has established especially into the brand centric enterprises. As a digital guru, CDO is experienced with digital technologies and clever use of these technologies to transact and build the brand via digital channels. On the other hand, CDO needs to be well versed in change management and can drive adoption of new technologies across the business for fast turnaround. Considering most enterprises are global, international experience in this area is critical.

Chief Enterprise Architect (CEA) has emerged as a key technology leader role. EAs are often accused of sitting in the ivory tower! The "new" CEA role sheds the ivory tower syndrome by building business awareness and bringing in agility and pragmatism in the role. A major goal of the CEA role is to understand the business vision and bring about change in such a way that it maximises the value and minimises the associated "pain". The CEA is responsible for crafting a viable roadmap by leveraging the technology estate. At the same time, the CEA as a leader helps the people respond to change in an organised manner.

Organisations may choose to retain existing IT leadership roles or coin new roles or do both! “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Regardless of the role title, the new genre of IT leadership would need to harness the power of technology and usher their organisations into the fourth industrial revolution smoothly. Else, for those organisations, the changing landscape of technology will be that of the shifting sands.