tablet_CIO_brand_driver.jpgDigital innovation is advancing to the front in the battle for new and returning customers, and everyone is looking to the CIO. Not too long ago, technology was the behind-the-scenes engine that supported business processes. Today, technology must serve as the foundation of a business while also externally leading the brand.

More businesses see CIOs as strategic hires who have a direct impact on brand perception and success. One example is J.Crew’s recent hire of CIO Michelle Garvey. Part of Garvey’s well-publicized charter is to revitalize the brand, responsibility that was once reserved only for CEOs or CMOs.

Today, organizations are recognizing that brand momentum depends on an innovative technology vision focused on meeting customers where they spend most of their time, in the digital world. Organizations succeed when they can up the ante on digital experiences and provide new services, convenience and business models across multiple technology channels.

The net sum of these trends is CIOs are feeling the pressure of being pulled in multiple directions at once. In the recent State of the CIO 2016 report, 88 percent of CIOs said their role is more challenging today. Seventy-one percent shared that it is difficult to strike a balance between innovation and operational efficiency and security.

As if these mandates were not enough to keep a CIO busy, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is another growing trend falling within the purview of the CIO. Many organizations see CSR as a growth opportunity to differentiate their brands. CSR initiatives range from corporate transparency efforts and protecting customer data and privacy to improving operational efficiencies. The common denominator across these areas is technology. Consequently, IT teams are central players in designing and leading projects designed to manage resources more effectively, secure customer data, and facilitate open communications internally and externally.

With so much depending on them, CIOs simply can’t afford technology infrastructures that don’t perform at top levels, particularly when it comes to identity management. Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions play a key role in digital business. They enable workforce productivity, drive customer engagement across multiple digital channels, support innovative services and apps, and uniformly enforce data security policies.

The demands on CIOs and their IT teams are only going to grow as the pace of digital innovation accelerates in the coming years. While there may be many trends and forces outside the CIOs influence, one thing they can control is the technology infrastructure they put in place.