CIOs will drive culture change as much as HR chiefs in 2021

Business transformation road sign

CIOs will be as responsible for a shift in business culture in the next few years as chief HR officers (CHROs), as they seek to accommodate digital transformation in their organisation, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Although such change is usually spearheaded by the HR department as they are responsible for the mission and values of a company, an increasingly close relationship between IT and HR will result in CIOs becoming just as important when considering how a business's core strategy changes.

"A lot of CIOs have realised that culture can be an accelerator of digital transformation and that they have the means to reinforce a desired culture through their technology choices," said Elise Olding, research vice president at Gartner. "A partnership with the CHRO is the perfect way to align technology selections and design processes to shape the desired work behaviours."

Gartner explained that the way in which IT teams are analysing data to improve the way a business operates is having a significant impact on the company culture. In addition to identifying how the business can utilise digital technologies to compete against rivals, these insights are also looking at ways in which the company's culture is shifting and needs to change to achieve objectives.

"In 50 per cent of cases, transformational initiatives are clear failures and CIOs report that the main barrier is culture," said Christie Struckman, research vice president at Gartner. "The logical conclusion is that CIOs should start with culture change when they embark on digital transformation, not wait to address it later."

And businesses will increasingly use a culture shift as a way to ensure digital transformation initiatives are taken onboard, encouraging multidisciplinary, diverse teams that work together to meet common objectives.

"D&I initiatives will only contribute to business results if they are scaled properly and actually reach frontline employees," said John Kostoulas, senior research director at Gartner. "Organisations often overlook extending D&I programmes, such as unconscious bias training, to frontline employees. Numerous technologies can enhance the scale and effectiveness of D&I programmes, such as by diagnosing the current state of inclusion, developing leaders who foster inclusion and embedding inclusion into daily business execution."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.