With IT budgets shrinking and business units outsourcing their requests, CIOs need to adapt the role their departments play in order to take back the reins in the digital transformation. But the game is far from lost.

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IT departments in three years' time: a new business unit?

According to Gartner, "38% of total IT spend is outside of IT already, with a disproportionate amount in digital. By 2017, it will be over 50%. Digital start-ups sit inside your own organisation, in your marketing department, in HR, in logistics and in sales". Faced with this kind of upheaval, the role of the IT department is being turned on its head. According to the consultancy firm, in order to become a key player in the digital transformation, CIOs will need to rapidly change their leadership style over the next three years to focus more on vision, creativity and inspiration than management and control.

For proof that this approach is worthwhile, Gartner has also discovered that the most efficient and high-performing CIOs are those who spend less time running the IT shop. This gives them extra time to generate value by engaging the board and developing new customer experiences (De l’informatique au numérique (From IT to Digital), Informatique News).

Expounding upon its vision of the future of CIOs, Gartner reports that they are increasingly reporting to CEOs, moving up in the hierarchy and experiencing a possible 'return to grace' as ZDNet would have it. CIOs are still expected to lead the charge in the digital transition period. However, tech leaders will need to develop two personalities: "one that is rock solid and another one as a digital gunslinger" ready to take risks and embrace digital business (Every business will be digital: can tech leaders make the turn?, ZDNet). According to three IT experts interviewed about the role of the CIO, retaining their position and becoming a recognised partner in the business will depend on their possessing multiple skills, business and technological expertise and on the ability to listen and communicate (video: CIO and Digital Business Transformation).

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CIOs need to spin a different line

CIOs often talk about technology, development cycles, risks, etc. But now they need to talk business and show CEOs the added value they bring in order to remain at the forefront of the business. This is essentially one of the conclusions of the MIT Sloan CIO symposium. One of the speakers, a senior vice-president and CIO for a publisher, explained why. "There is no business without IT anymore," Colangelo says. You can't write, produce or deliver content to a customer without IT. We are the business now".

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Is the CIO a key player in international expansion?

This is most definitely something we can read from between the lines of François Fournier's comments. The Executive Director of Innovation at Bpifrance says that, "today, thanks to digital technology, companies are able to gain visibility quickly at little expense".

Collaborative tools, mobile networks and terminals, social media, cloud technology, videoconferencing, budgetary control for different types of interaction ... all of these digital technologies provide fertile ground for inter-continental exchanges, explains newspaper Les Echos (Le numérique, accélérateur de développement à l’international (Digital technology: speeding up international expansion)). In the light of all of these new opportunities for business, we can therefore conclude that IT directors have a major role to play; they just need to take a small step.