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What CEOs really want from CIOs?

The availability of various technologies for almost all business functions is shifting the responsibilities of a traditional CIO who is normally involved in technology selection, purchase and IT management. According to Gartner CEO Research, almost 60% of CEOs view IT as a key constraint to implementing business changes in the organization. Recent trends in business IT systems and CEO perspectives on IT place enormous expectations on the CIO to enhance business value and use technology effectively for overall growth in the company.

As technology permeates almost every business area and functions, the board and CEO are taking active interest in usage of technology. Technology of today is viewed by business leaders as indispensable and an active source of competitive advantage. Business disruptions due to technology are becoming an accepted fact across many industries and at times the impact is quite significant. The CEO of today understands the potential of new emerging technologies when their competitors are able to generate more value using digital channels. However to leverage technology for business success and to execute emerging strategic priorities, the CEO or is more dependent on the CIO.

According to CIO Magazine, a number of CEOs are quick to embrace the impression that CIOs are strategic business peers. This is because their companies engage customers using technology and social media hence the role of CIO is highly important. For example, the CEO of Bayer explains that CIOs can play an important role in the executive table by providing the right technology conclusions to achieve business strategies. Therefore, CEOs look for IT leaders who are accountable not only for IT management, but can also fuel innovation, growth and enable change to develop competitive business advantage – all using technology.

The role of CIO as perceived by the CEO is to focus outside on markets, customers and opportunities and suggest strategies for product development. CIOs by virtue of their technical background often face difficulties while communicating with non-IT people and customers. This is often debated as the main limitation that widens the gap between business and IT. CEOs address and treat everyone as peers to generate business value and this includes customers, vendors and employees. This approach by CEOs increases the expectations of CIO in managing these areas along with managing IT, costs and internal reporting.

In today’s complex business scenarios, CEOs are fully dependent on CIOs for business success. Hence, CEOs place certain strategic priorities for CIOs that include,

  • Enhancing the potential of technology: It is a proven fact that digital strategy is highly important for effective execution of business if the company needs to remain competitive. IT creates new opportunities to deliver enhanced customer experience and services to transform business value. Here, CIOs can facilitate the development of digital roadmap by which the company can collaborate with customers, vendors and all stake holders to support business initiatives. CIOs can play the role to generate new revenue channels by the use of technology.
  • Transform the digital environment: This is another challenging area where CIOs have to ensure the transition from a legacy environment to a more nimble and flexible IT environment. The transition should be made without disrupting business operations. CEO expects the new IT environment will assure relevance in business departments and will support in active decision making. The CIO has to further ensure the required skills are available in the company to handle new business needs.
  • Decision making through business intelligence (BI) and analytics: Many enterprise companies make use of BI tools and analytics to cover a wide range of functions such as finance, SCM, marketing, HR, etc., and are recognizing business benefits. CIOs should work closely with business units to implement these tools for analyzing data to show useful information to the CEO and in turn recognize data as an invaluable asset in the company. BI and analytics tools when used effectively will definitely have a positive impact on business bottom-line and in customer services.
  • Secure the business from cyber attacks: The substantial increase in use of new technology makes the business vulnerable to attacks through IT. CIOs can guide the management in this critical area by developing strategies to deal with risks posed by cyber security threats. Employee training on security matters is highly essential to protect all vital information assets available in the company. Cyber attacks are possible when the company is not fully prepared to deal with it. CIOs should proactively implement effective IT security for mitigation of attacks and have comprehensive disaster recovery measures to ensure business continuity and protection of data.
  • Fulfill business needs by transitioning to vendor outsourcing: Outsourcing key business functions is popular in business organizations and this is proving to be beneficial. CIOs can consider outsourcing as an option to transform the company from traditional legacy environment to a more flexible infrastructure such as cloud computing. The CEO expects this transition will be smooth which offers an advantage for the CIO to reduce existing IT costs and increase overall business value and expansion by deploying cloud based solutions in the company.
  • Business growth and innovation: CEOs expect IT to innovate and create new growth opportunities for the organization. Nowadays IT is used extensively in innovation therefore, the expectations on the CIO are high to play a dominant role to drive innovation and create new opportunities for business growth.

In addition to the above expectations, the CIO is also expected to deliver safe IT solutions in a cost effective manner, for example, BYOD. CIOs must consider redefining their roles to be more business centric in order to create valuable assets through data management and effective implementation of technology.