The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an all-hands-on-deck approach, especially in IT. And that ethos extends beyond business continuity efforts to include helping sustain and grow revenue, as IT has increasingly leveraged digitization throughout the pandemic as a powerful weapon to deliver greater efficiencies.\nKnee-deep in digital transformation initiatives and ensuring work from home continues to run smoothly, many CIOs have become further entrenched in revenue discussions as technology is increasingly seen as a way to contribute to the organization\u2019s bottom line.\n[ Learn from your peers: Check out our State of the CIO 2020 report on the challenges and concerns of CIOs today. | Find out the 7 skills of successful digital leaders and the secrets of highly innovative CIOs. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletter. ]\nCIOs are being asked to take on more revenue-driven responsibilities now, says Partha Iyengar, a Gartner fellow. The caveat, he says, is that this applies to CIOs who meet the criteria of boards of directors as partners or trusted allies.\nThose CIOs \u201creally have to drive revenue and business outcomes directly,\u2019\u2019 Iyengar says. Boards have very clear expectations, \u201cbut if the CIO doesn\u2019t have the credentials of being a strong business leader they\u2019re not being given that responsibility. But boards very clearly believe technology is essential to increasing revenue and profitability.\u201d\nIn a July IDG survey, 53% of CIO respondents cited \u201cmaintain overall revenue, given market shifts\u201d as a top digital business objective, compared to 22% in 2019. Also cited was the desire to drive new revenue, which increased to 53% up from 48% last year.\nGiven the uncertain economy, \u201cthis is not the time for CIOs to wait for their CFOs to bring the discussion to them\u201d about how digitalization can impact enterprise-wide financials, advised Gartner in a September research note. \u201cCIOs should proactively look beyond their own functional cost base to the wider impact IT can have on the enterprise \u2014 and that involves technology and digitalization in response to COVID-19.\u201d\nCIOs should proactively explain to the CFO and C-suite executives what technology can do for the enterprise, Gartner said. The discussion should include how IT can align itself to the organization\u2019s changing priorities and strategy, while tracking the impact IT investments have on business outcomes.\nCIOs, in many cases, are doing just that.\nMonetizing internal platforms\nRandy Gaboriault, chief digital and information officer for healthcare provider ChristianaCare, believes wholeheartedly that it is appropriate for CIOs to be involved in revenue discussions, and says he was even prior to the pandemic.\n\u201cRevenue [is] very much a component of the CIO role\u201d in healthcare, Gaboriault says.\n\u201cI would argue that COVID was more of an accelerant than a change agent in terms of us driving our strategy, which included rebuilding or rethinking how healthcare is delivered.\u201d\nIT follows the mantra that \u201cin healthcare, all care that can be digital will be digital. And all care will be delivered in home except that which cannot be,\u2019\u2019 he says.\nPre-pandemic, Gaboriault says ChristianaCare IT developed a strategy for delivering healthcare outside the hospital and into the home \u2014 and making that extensible to other healthcare systems. The result was an employee health monitoring platform.\nBut the pandemic prompted IT to consider commercializing the platform, \u201cbecause the problem we solved became immediately ubiquitous for all employers,\u2019\u2019 Gaboriault says. The platform is being sold to 24 employers in 14 states in industries ranging from construction to food processing.\nIt is used to screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms and testing, if needed. If an employee has \u201ca risk indicator,\u201d they are immediately connected to resources, such as another tool from ChristianaCare\u2019s IT group called CareVio, which was built pre-COVID, if their employer has purchased it.\nCareVio provides virtualized care management and patients can register online prior to a surgical procedure. The platform also helps manage ongoing care post-surgery via texts and videos, he says. \u201cWe created the ability to have a more granular, higher touch, higher frequency relationship with patients to make sure you stay on your course of care,\u2019\u2019 Gaboriault says. CareVio is sold to other healthcare systems and insurance companies on a per member, per month basis.\nThe monetization of the platforms outside ChristianaCare makes sense, Gaboriault believes. \u201cIf I look at the future of healthcare for us and the industry, it will not be about laying hands on patients \u2026 it will be much more of a virtual business.\u201d\nIn terms of ROI, CareVio is also powering the movement away from fee-for-service and into value-based payment models, he says, \u201cin which our revenue is based on our success in improving the health of populations while controlling costs.\u201d\nThe transformation work and the ability to commercialize the platforms \u201cdovetailed very naturally,\u2019\u2019 he adds. \u201cI would argue that any high-functioning CIO needs to have that capability of envisioning solutions to solve problems and to be able to look out and say, \u2018How are these extensible and scalable beyond my organization?\u2019\u201d\nDigitizing to re-create lost business\nOnce IT transitioned employees to working from home seamlessly and securely, the CIO\u2019s attention has shifted to driving new revenue opportunities, says Chris Murphy, CEO of North America at global software consultancy ThoughtWorks.\n ThoughtWorks\n\nChris Murphy, CEO of North America, ThoughtWorks\n\n\n\u201cThis is almost the CIO\u2019s exclusive focus now,\u2019\u2019 he says. \u201cThe pressure being put on them, rightly, is to help us drive the re-creation of our business to grab more market share and drive new revenue opportunities for us.\u201d\nFor example, in the hard-hit travel and hospitality industries, a lot of profitability comes from selling extras, such as an upgraded suite or dinner experience, Murphy says. \u201cCIOs in the travel space have been charged with, \u2018How do we use this downtime to bring in new revenue-generating opportunities so when our customers come back we\u2019re getting more of the money they\u2019re spending?\u2019\u201d\nCIOs have to create a seamless digital experience to capture this desire to upgrade, Murphy says \u2014 and do it with minimal friction.\nDoing more with less\nHigher ed is another vertical that has been hit hard by the pandemic, and Kendra Ketchum, vice president for information management and technology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, has used it as an opportunity to shave costs and do more with less.\nIt was a matter of, \u201cAre you going to survive or are you going to thrive?\u2019\u2019 Ketchum says. IT took about a 9% budget hit, and Ketchum accelerated a \u201cfranchise opportunity\u201d that was in the works last year called Tech Caf\u00e9.\nOver the course of two months, IT consolidated four service desks throughout the university into a more centralized model. Now there are \u201cbot-istas\u201d that faculty, staff and students can turn to for tech support. That way, she says, IT can gain economies of scale.\n\u201cAt the end of the day, if they\u2019re spending X on IT and I can shave off the top layer of support \u2026 we\u2019re giving back to the organization by us absorbing those people and with the expertise we have on our team, we\u2019re leveling up whenever we deliver our SLAs,\u2019\u2019 she says. IT can now deliver Tier 2 or Tier 3 support faster.\nThere were roughly 62 \u201cbusiness units\u201d at UTSA and the number has been reduced to 50. In the next three years, the goal is to deliver Tech Caf\u00e9 to the rest of the university and have IT become fully centralized by 2023.\nNiche areas that require Tier 1 support, such as in the college of science, which needs IT to maintain mission-critical equipment such as microscopes, will still have staff for that, Ketchum adds.\nBecause Ketchum has a seat at the executive table, she says, that enabled her to lay out her strategy and demonstrate where IT could add value and reduce costs in duplication of services and software.\n\u201cI showed we would get ROI by year three if I only got to 60% adoption by year two,\u2019\u2019 she says. \u201cI took what all decentralized units were spending on IT and showed how I could use my platform.\u201d Adoption rates actually exceed expectations and Ketchum says they are now at 90% adoption of a centralized service platform as opposed to individual ticketing systems.\nAdvocating for more revenue responsibilities\nRevenue share has always been an organizational priority at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, even as executive vice president and CIO Nassar Nizami has grappled with digital transformation initiatives and ensuring the transition to remote work and school has been seamless.\nWhile telehealth was a nice-to-have prior to the pandemic, it was less than 1% of the total volume of work, he says. During the pandemic, telehealth skyrocketed to 60% and is now hovering around 20%.\nBy shifting responsibilities and elevating roles in IT, Nizami says he has been able to focus more on partnering with a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley to work with startups, which will ultimately generate revenue for the health organization, he says.\n\u201cIt was a little bit of me going to [the executive team],\u2019\u2019 he says. \u201cEveryone understands digitization will be transformational for healthcare,\u2019\u2019 but Nizami says he is often asked if it can be stepped up. \u201cThat\u2019s where I had to position [IT] and say, \u2018You shouldn\u2019t be looking at any third parties. We have leadership and can take on additional responsibilities.\u2019\u201d Delegating responsibilities meant IT could become \u201cthe team to truly lead the digital transformation, including revenue-generating software.\u201d\nAnother initiative IT recently took on and advocated for was robotic process automation (RPA), which Nizami says is a direct revenue generator. Prior to the pandemic \u201cwe were dipping our toes in it.\u201d Once the pandemic hit, Nizami says, \u201cit became very clear our financial situation is such that we need to take bold steps.\u201d\nIT partnered with finance leaders to come up with what Nizami calls a very aggressive plan to use automation to replace manual processes while improving the time and quality of delivering services. \u201cWe\u2019re targeting $10 million in a combination of savings and revenue generation by bringing in RPA,\u2019\u2019 he says, in areas such as payment collection and surgery preauthorization.\nThose were very manual and error-prone processes, he says. \u201cErrors cause slogs. Now, what took 15 minutes can take 15 seconds and we\u2019re taking the error out.\u201d Officials are also targeting a decrease in insurance claim denials.\nNizami says RPA will enhance the ability of the hospital to take on more patients, which will also help increase revenue.\nHow to join the discussion\nRetired CIO Steve Sheinheit says he used a business model to define three lenses by which to look at IT investment decisions called \u201cIT\u2019s Hierarchy of Needs.\u201d The first was traditional IT performance and reliability; the second, return on investment; and third was business value \u2014 reduce risk, improve customer service, reduce costs or add revenue.\n\u201cThe IT plan and associated budget should be managed as a portfolio of investments utilizing the three lenses \u2026 to optimize results,\u2019\u2019 says Sheinheit, who now consults to financial services and insurance\u00a0companies as part of Suite200 Solutions.\n\u201cFor highly capable CIOs, this has been an important part of the job for decades,\u201d he adds.\nThe term \u201csiloed\u201d is often used to describe the relationship between IT and the business units. For IT to be seen as a revenue generator, companies must understand that business and operations cannot silo themselves from IT, says Ari Moradmand, CTO of on-demand ambulance services provider Ambulnz.\n\u201cIn order to generate additional revenue, it\u2019s important that leaders quickly identify and remove any IT roadblocks that will deter success,\u2019\u2019 Moradmand says.\nAssuming they\u2019re able to delegate certain responsibilities as Nizami has done, CIOs and IT leaders need to ask themselves \u201cif they have the skills and knowledge to do what is essentially a new job,\u2019\u2019 says ThoughtWorks\u2019 Murphy. More frequently, CIOs tend not to come up through the traditional tech chain but from the business side, with exposure to technology, he says.\nSome organizations are also investing in their CIOs whether by sending them to business school or putting them on accelerated leadership programs or internal rotations within the company, he says.\nThis shift to more of a revenue focus is permanent, Murphy says. \u201cThis is now the role of the CIO,\u201d he says. \u201cTechnology has shifted from being about operating efficiencies to customer engagement.\u201d\nFor CIOs who are interested in accelerating their career or elevating their role they must be able to stand up a team that can take \u201ca valuable new digital property to market that creates new revenue opportunities or new market share,\u2019\u2019 Murphy says. \u201cOnce they\u2019ve shown that, quite often you\u2019ll see the CEO come to them and say, \u2018Hey, I noticed you created this product, and this is fantastic. How can we do more of this in the future?\u2019\u201d\nThat shows the demonstrable, real-world results and the desire to create more, he says.\nThe importance of curiosity and creativity\nThe other thing CIOs should do is demonstrate genuine curiosity. \u201cWhat I see is CEOs will gravitate to CIOs who don\u2019t say, \u2018This is great news, but I\u2019ve got to keep the lights on,\u2019\u201d Murphy says, to \u201c\u2018I really want to help you and here\u2019s my proposal for how to do this.\u2019\u201d\nIt requires a different mindset to not be a person who says no, but one who demonstrates a willingness to both participate and offer some ideas. \u201cThey may not be the right ideas,\u2019\u2019 Murphy adds, \u201cbut the board is increasingly willing to listen.\u201d\nGaboriault of ChristianaCare agrees that CIOs need to bring forward ideas \u2014 and that they are perfectly situated to do so.\n\u201cThe CIO has a tremendous structural advantage over every other function in the organization,\u2019\u2019 he says. \u201cWe have a wide-angle lens on everything, and no other function has that.\u201d That wide angle lens lets IT leaders see where problems exist and how automation and technology can solve them.\n\u201cWe have to bring the invisible to visible through automation,\u2019\u2019 he says. \u201cYou have to be in a position to articulate that and connect the problem to the basic business case. Does it pass the scratch test where it meets the basics of the economic model?\u201d\nCIOs should also ask whether software can be viably produced and whether it is sustainable, Gaboriault says.\n\u201cIf there isn\u2019t a market for something, there might be a reason why,\u201d he says. \u201cEvery day I have the gift of having that wide-angle lens. So I have to push boundaries.\u201d Even when some of the ideas aren\u2019t good.