The Rise Of The CIO As Product Leader

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The fifth in a series taking a closer look at Arrayent’s Top 10 Predictions for 2017. No. 5: IoT in 2017…will show brand manufacturers placing CIOs into prominent product oversight roles because of the focus on IoT data.

Data is the key to deriving business intelligence value that will ultimately enhance product experiences and create new services to benefit consumers and expand business opportunities. Currently less than a third of companies are actually analyzing data gathered to create actionable insights, according to Forrester Research. But this is changing and most indicators point to the CIO as the business leader being tapped to lead the charge. The call for CIOs to lead a company’s IoT efforts are based on the belief that they might be best equipped to manage overall digital transformation within the corporate hierarchy.

In recent research, Gartner found that almost one-third of responding organizations expected the CIO would be leading their IoT activities. And by 2020, more than 10% of new IoT products from traditional industries would be the responsibility of the CIO. Further, IDC’s 2016 research showed that two-thirds of CEOs planned to focus on digital transformation strategies and that CIOs would be major players in leading every department through this shift. That’s why we believe this trend will reach a tipping point in 2017 as brand manufacturers organize internally to bring IoT data management into the C-suite.


However, tapping a CIO to accept responsibility for their company’s connected product programs and overall digital transformation requires redefining the role—and the required skills—of the CIO. The traditional CIO has been focused on cost-efficiency and infrastructure reliability. To capitalize on IoT’s potential, CIOs will “have a key role to play in identifying the opportunities, understanding the business goals and objectives, and building out the technology infrastructure—including connectivity, analytics, storage, and store-and-forward mechanisms…,” as CIO Magazine pointed out recently.

Much like a COO, CIOs have traditionally been focused on the ‘how’ certain things are implemented. One way to characterize this would be to say their jobs were focused on quantitative activities. In an expanded role over IoT products and overall digital transformation, they are being put solidly in the realm of ‘why’ something should be done. This has heretofore been the realm of the CMO or CPO and is inherently qualitative in its approach. How can CIOs prepare for this new era?


We believe partnering with experts inside and outside of the organization will be key to making CIOs successful. Instead of trying to teach an operationally and quantitatively-focused executive how to be an effective product or marketing leader, we have seen that the key to success with connected products will be to adopt a cross-functional organizational structure. In this matrix-style of management, the CIO becomes the ‘drum beater’ who keeps the ship on course and at speed, but who also allows product and marketing executives to remain as strategic decision makers within the organization.

CIO as IoT Product LeaderA key value that a CIO can bring to an organization is their penchant for embracing change. By definition, a CIO has to be malleable to the shifts inherent with technological change. Not only being able to absorb new information, but also determining how to leverage that info for a company’s best advantage. Being an effective change-agent in the rapidly shifting world of IoT can be a significant advantage when faced with entrenched attitudes such as “we’ve always done it this way” or “that’s another department’s problem, we only deal with this.” In this regard, a CIO can be hugely valuable to a CEO in helping guide their organization from a pre- to post-digital world.


Arrayent has seen these IoT management issues plus their associated organizational proclivities and personalities for over a decade. We have seen what organizational structures work and which struggle. Because Arrayent is a platform-as-a-service company, we only succeed if our customers succeed and ship lots of connected products. Therefore we have shaped our business to include a consultative approach with customer success teams formed around the specific needs of our brand manufacturers. We have outlined that approach in our A4 Program which can be downloaded here.

We strongly encourage new customers to allow us to conduct our Envision IoT Business Transformation Workshop with their key stakeholders at the beginning of an IoT program. In that workshop, we outline the A4 process and how it can aid development of their organization as well as their connected products. This is especially useful as they head towards a world where their products are ‘always on.’


The secret power of an executive with an inclusive management style who also honors the clarity derived from data is what makes them better able to manage digital transformation. By definition, IoT programs are all about the data, and how it can be used to change businesses and product user experiences for the better. Choosing an executive leader who understands that, and can help reshape the external and internal forces that apply pressures to an organization, will be critically important for companies adopting IoT.

You can read all of our predictions for 2017 here. Be sure you are subscribed to our blog, newsletter and social media feeds as we expect to chronicle many future developments for consumer IoT technologies throughout 2017.