If 2016 could be considered the year of the CIO, 2017 is even more so.
Just a year ago, Gartner analysts Patrick Meehan, Research VP, and Mark Raskino, VP and Gartner fellow, offered CIOs role-specific ideas to lift their performance and the performance of their organizations. In listening to their webinar recently, I recognized that every recommendation was just as critical as it was when first proposed. Generally, the suggestions fall into three categories: Influencing to the top and through the core, acquiring the resources to deepen digital business change, and reshaping the organization. Now, let’s look at the resolutions individually.
Take a Board Member out to breakfast: The CIO is uniquely positioned to examine the core technologies, policies, and competencies of the IT organization and link those to the needs of the c-suite team and the Board. In general, the CIO’s world moves far too quickly for most Board members. They don’t, for instance, know what blockchain is or why it’s relevant. It’s the CIO’s responsibility to help the Board see what could happen as a result of new technologies like this, whether it’s dangerous disruption or massive growth opportunity.
As the primary influencers of the company’s direction, Board members MUST think digitally. There’s no need to sell them on anything specific. A single conversation of 45 minutes will keep them informed, and breakfast is an excellent choice as no alcohol is involved and the Board member is less likely to cancel.
Power map your leadership network: The CIO role is moving more deeply into the front office and the digital workplace, and as such, the CIO has a greater influence on elements like product marketing and channel strategies. The CIO has essential input in terms of program and project management, technologies, processes, and competencies, and there is a critical need to interface cross-functionally. For example, said the analysts, if we need to put location sensors in a product, an EU-based CIO would need to communicate with the legal department.
Power mapping refers to creating your own chessboard of organizational players. Advocates can help transform neutral parties into believers and prevent adversaries from tanking what the CIO is trying to do.
Link to the top two metrics your CEO and Board care about: Universally, organizational leaders focus on revenue drivers, market share, and profitability. So, CIOs need to understand what these look like in the organization. For example, in an insurance company, the core metrics might be the number of policies written per day (growth metric), or the number of claims adjusted within 48 hours (retention metric). CIOs must stop speaking the language of IT and learn the language of the business.
Revisit your CMO relationship: Just like the CIO role, the CMO role has grown ever more complex. In recent years, CMOs have been distracted by big investments in big data and analytics, channel strategies, and overall, understanding how they can better target a customer of one. And, they are experiencing diminishing returns because a single customer cannot be broken down into a submarket. CMOs, therefore, are looking for additional opportunities to meaningfully interact with the customer. How can the CIO add value to this noble cause? What analytical knowledge can the CIO bring to bear so the CMO can gain essential customer intelligence?
Develop a business sacrifice list and divest a system every quarter: Write down a few elements of the business that your organization could sell in order to generate the capital to fund digital initiatives. For example, a supermarket might sell the land it has held in reserve to build future stores, and invest the money in e-commerce or heavy duty customer analytics. Although you may not have the authority to divest yourself, if your CEO asks you what you would do, you should be prepared with the answer. And don’t forget to make your own departmental sacrifices so that your suggestions have credibility!
Develop a techquisitions list: Sometimes an organization must build new capabilities, and doing so organically can take years. If you are behind the curve and need to move more quickly, consider buying whole technology companies, teams of people, or platforms. This strategy will help you acquire the right mix of assets to accelerate your digital business game.
Exploit crowdsourcing more widely: Once you’ve made a strategic techquisition, who is going to make sure it is properly leveraged? The truth is that one person does not have all the answers and you need multiple perspectives. Go out into your workforce and tap people in product development, marketing, sales, etc. and scout out ideas for applying the new technology. Ask: how can we use this to penetrate a market? How are we going to reinvent or synchronize our channels? Then, go beyond your enterprise and your firewall and talk to customers, partners, and thought-leaders to fine-tune your messages and approaches.
On a related note, also consider what it means to be an IT professional today. For example, the majority are contract workers who are employed at the moment an organization needs them (because there’s no time for traditional hiring). Contract IT workers can be an excellent source of innovation because they see what other organizations are doing well – and not so well.
Deliberately cross the organizational boundary line: IT has traditionally been deferential, maintaining its own space and worrying mostly about back office systems. But the capabilities of a digital business organization are different. This means that the CIO must dialogue more with other executives, of course, but sometimes those discussions don’t move quickly enough. Therefore, the CIO should just start building and incubating competencies even if they won’t be owned by IT in the end. For instance, the hand-wringing over Big Data is pervasive, but who is creating a data scientist team for the organization? If an initiative is important and someone eventually steals it from you, so what? You’ve acted as a leader.
Shift your IT thinking from “how and what skills” to “why and which competencies:” IT is usually handed requirements and expected to execute them. This is the in-house body shop model that treats IT product as commodities, and it’s obviously not sustainable for digital growth and transformation. CIOs should create new value and competitive advantage by blurring the lines within product development and thinking like a business architect. For example, Ford’s office of the CIO created Sync, the ability to talk to your car. This was a revolutionary development 10 years ago, and it teaches us an important lesson. Get involved in things that aren’t traditional IT services. According to the analysts, at least 30 percent of your resources need to be questioning: “why are we doing this and what are our options?”
Write 3-5 digital behavior maxims and make them wallpaper: In order to effect massive transformation, we have to change beliefs, automatic responses, and culture around technology. Many Silicon Valley companies have done this in a simple way. They devise pithy statements and put them everywhere so people see them and repeat them. Some examples? “Iterate widely,” “find the quick do,” and “simpler, clearer, faster.”
Make time to explore: CIOs exist in an embattled state, stuck in their offices, attending endless meetings over priorities, budgets, and people issues. It’s easy to get out of touch about what’s going on in technology, and you can’t rely on others to explain new developments to you. Get a gut feel by kicking the tires yourself.
Define your legacy: Regardless of level, the highest performing executives take the time to reflect: “What do I want to be when I grow up,” or “If I were to retire this year, would I be happy with what I’ve left behind?” The career path within IT is not as clear cut as it used to be. The CIO role is not perennial, and in fact, might be a stepping stone to something completely different.
What were your resolutions for 2016? Did you achieve them? What do you hope to do in 2017 to take your role to the next level?