Any competent CIO knows how to run IT effectively – delivering on time and in budget. But the CIO needs to go further to win the attention of the CEO, by building a convincing case that they can truly help to reshape the future of the business. To do this CIOs should focus on six core messages – something that not all CIOs recognize or appreciate.
Margaret Thatcher, the former “Iron Lady” of British politics, once explained why she favored a particular colleague: “Other ministers bring me problems, but David brings me solutions.” A CIO who recognizes that the CEO wants the same has made the most important step toward winning the ear of the boss.
Any competent CIO should be able to run IT effectively: delivering key projects on time, managing day-to-day workloads and hitting budget targets. But outstanding CIOs – those individuals who CEOs regard as key business partners – do more: they play a vital role in business transformation.
To win influence in the boardroom, CIOs must convince their CEOs that they can help to shape the future of the business, delivering the technological tools required to meet its needs and developing structures that facilitate change.
To show the CEO that you understand the challenges your business faces – and can help it to meet them – you should focus on getting across six core messages to your CEO.
- You understand that resources are limited and have suggestions for how to do more with less. CEOs have little time for colleagues who whine about budget constraints – nor, for that matter, those whose grand proposals do not include rigorous cost-benefit analyses. Make sure all proposals from IT focus clearly on investment returns.
- You know that IT can play a key role in boosting productivity and cutting costs on a company-wide basis. Technology is a key enabler in business transformation, and you should be able to set out a vision for how IT can deliver a more efficient enterprise – not only the tools required, but also the processes for using them.
- You realize it’s not all about the debits column. The CIO is well placed to be an innovator who boosts revenues. You can bring product innovation and suggest new business models. The link between a company’s bottom-line performance and its effective use of technology is increasingly clear. Innovative CIOs command CEOs’ respect for their ability to deliver real competitive advantage.
- You believe that R&D is the lifeblood of a company’s future, whatever its industry. IT must therefore work closely with the rest of the business to drive R&D forward. CIOs play a key role in developing new and improved products and services – always remembering return on investment.
- You appreciate the need to win stakeholders’ trust. In the wake of the financial crisis, CEOs are now required to work ever harder to gain the support of internal and external stakeholders, ranging from employees to regulators to shareholders. CIOs can provide the data required to do exactly that.
- You know that sustainability is an increasingly important priority for business. As the CIO, you can set out a road map for ensuring that IT is a sustainable function, while working closely with other functions to provide them with the tools and technologies required to do the same.