Companies Profit When the CIO Collaborates in the C-Suite

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers says companies earn a higher ‘digital IQ’—and higher profits—if the CIO and other top business execs have a collaborative relationship

Companies with strong relationships between the CIO and other C-suite executives are four times as likely as less-collaborative teams to achieve business results such as revenue growth and high profit margins, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' fifth annual Digital IQ study.

PwC polled 1,108 business and technology leaders globally and split their responses into two groups: the 13 percent of respondents who rated themselves as "strong collaborators" in the C-suite, and the rest who didn't.

The study found a big correlation between strong C-suite collaboration and top business performers, which PwC defined as companies reporting revenue growth of 5 percent or more in the previous year and high levels of profitability, revenue and innovation.

Why the correlation? C-suites characterized as strong collaborators typically link their IT road map to corporate strategy, the study says.

Chris Curran, a principal at PwC and chief technologist for the U.S. firm's advisory practice, says that the CIO must initiate "digital conversations" that help the C-suite view IT as an important part of business strategy.

"The senior leader is trying to affect transformational change and, for most companies, IT and the digital world is going to be front-and-center to make it happen," Curran says.

Getting the CEO on board with critical IT goals is key--and a sign that a company has a high "digital IQ," the study says. Eighty-two percent of the collaborative executives say their CEO is a champion of IT, compared with 54 percent of the less-collaborative group of executives.

Furthermore, the strong collaborators were more likely than the others to have a single, multiyear road map for business strategy, which helps them foster innovation and deliver projects on time and on budget, PwC says.

Warren Kudman, CIO of Sealed Air, says he is keenly aware of the need for C-suite collaboration and won't execute a project without clear business partnerships in place. "We don't define success as delivering a functioning tool," he says. "We are accountable for the [business] value that was delivered."

Lauren Brousell is a staff writer for CIO magazine. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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