CIOs know they must be business leaders, but the business knowledge they must bring to the proverbial table is something of a moving target.\n\nThere are, of course, the management fundamentals and the longstanding executive skills that remain constant must-haves. But there are, too, a list of topics that bubble up and dominate based on current trends and present-day realities.\n\nSpeaking to that latter point, CIO.com polled analysts, consultants, and CIOs about the must-have business concepts of today. Here\u2019s what made their list.\n\nKey business drivers\n\nEvery organization has a unique list of the internal and external activities, factors, and resources that impact its operational and financial performance; they and how they interact come together under the broad umbrella of key business drivers.\n\nAs CIOs have moved from technologists to executives over the past decade or so, they have had to better understand how their organizations operate and make money. But the upheaval of the past few years has brought the need to fully grasp what drives the business and how they do so to the forefront.\n\n\u201cBy deeply understanding this, the technology team can partner with the business to design and implement technology solutions that not only continuously improve on the products and services customers rely on, but also create greater value for the customers,\u201d says Mark Mintz, corporate senior vice president and CIO of Charles River Laboratories. \u201cThis is more important than ever now because technology\u2019s role in creating value is bigger than it ever has been.\u201d\n\nDynamic pricing\n\nThe 2021 Gartner CEO Survey: The Year of Rebuilding found that sustained profitability is one of the top areas drawing CEO attention. As part of that, CEOs are talking about dynamic pricing \u2014 an approach to setting the price that a company will charge for its product or service that allows for rapid change based on various market conditions and considerations.\n\nThat CEO interest in dynamic pricing in turn necessitates others, including the CIO, to understand how it works and how they can help enable it, says Irving Tyler, a distinguished research vice president and key initiative leader with Gartner\u2019s CIO Research team.\n\n\u201cEvery organization has some form of product or service that has to have a pricing model. In many instances those prices can be fairly stable, but one of the challenges of today, where consumers have a lot of sway and access to information for competitive analysis, is the need to start adjusting prices and knowing where, when and how fast,\u201d Tyler explains. \u201cThis concept of dynamic pricing is something that CEOs see as important to keeping up profitability. And when top executives realize this is a capability we need, they start assigning accountability.\n\n\u201cThis requires lots of data \u2014 the complexity of making that pricing decision can\u2019t just be a hit or miss; you can\u2019t just put a price out there and see if it sells. It takes technology to power it,\u201d he adds. \u201cSo it needs the CIO to provide leadership not only to provide the right tech solutions but also to think about the design of the capabilities. The CIO needs to know more about it so they can be part of the decision-making, to get the right tech, the right team, and the right resources.\u201d\n\nFinance, financial markets\n\nFor years now CIOs have been advised to understand how their companies make money, speak the language of business, and calculate the value of IT in dollars. But Leona Thomas, senior delivery director with the global BAS transformation team at the consulting firm Slalom, says CIOs should amass a broader knowledge of financing, financial markets, and the global economy.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s important to understand how the financials of the business world work, so you understand how they impact other issues, whether it\u2019s dynamic pricing or ROIs,\u201d she says. \u201cThese should be concepts you know off the top of your head, and not something you have to take a step back for.\u201d\n\nOthers agree, citing current trends as pushing this topic to the forefront for many CIOs.\n\n\u201cThe long low inflation, easy capital environment allowed for a margin of error that has disappeared now that inflation is back and capital is becoming expensive again,\u201d says RJ Juliano, senior vice president and chief information and marketing officer with Parkway Corp.\n\nHe adds: \u201cIT is a big user of financial resources that, properly chosen and managed, are investments in the company\u2019s core goals.\u201d\n\nData privacy laws\n\nAs of April 2022, four US states had data privacy laws on the books, one state had recently passed legislation, and 11 more have bills under consideration, according to the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Westin Research Center. That\u2019s on top of existing international laws, emerging changes to those laws, and proposed new ones.\n\nAlthough they don\u2019t have to become lawyers, CIOs do need to understand the legal and business ramifications of these laws and how their technology strategies intersect with those, says Kristen Lamoreaux, president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s often thought of as a purely legal problem, but you [as a CIO] need to be an expert in this space in the countries in which you do business. The complexities of today, pulling data from social media as well as internal streams, where and how data is stored, how you\u2019re using it, cross-border data transfers, means that in a click of a mouse your entire reputation can be put at risk.\u201d\n\nThe geopolitical environment\n\nSimilarly, Jeff Wong, global chief innovation officer with professional services firm EY, says CIOs should have a stronger grasp on the geopolitical landscape and how world events, political decisions, and related actions could impact not only their organizations as a whole but how they deliver technical and digital services.\n\n\u201cWith changing global dynamics, you\u2019ll no longer have global standards. And you may have to think about different service providers in a way that you haven\u2019t had to before,\u201d he explains.\n\nCase in point: US government concerns over Hauwei and ZTE led to federal bans on the use of their equipment, a move that has both design and cost implications for companies across the United States.\n\nThat\u2019s just the start, Wong says, noting that other national policies and geopolitical actions affect how and where organizations can store data, what and where they can use certain algorithms, and even what cloud providers may be used \u2014 all of which is information that many CIOs need to track and understand.\n\nThe customer journey\n\nWong advises CIOs to know where the company is getting customers, how it does customer acquisition work, what are the price points of the customer acquisition function, and other similar knowledge around its company\u2019s customer function.\n\n\u201cThe reason why it\u2019s so important today is because customers have shown that they have a willingness to change how they shop, how they get things, and what they\u2019ll pay,\u201d Wong says.\n\nSurveys bear this out. Some 17% of U.S. consumers say they usually or always abandon their purchases due to a poor customer experience, according to a study from Emplifi, a customer experience platform company. Factor in those US consumers who will sometimes do this, and the rate jumps to 52%.\n\nThe report also found that nearly half of US consumers say previous good customer experience with a brand, the speed of availability\/delivery, and a large selection of products factor into their decisions when considering where to shop for new purchases.\n\nAnd 65% of US consumers said they\u2019d pay at least 5% more for products and services if they knew they would receive outstanding customer service.\n\nCIOs can\u2019t afford not to understand such dynamics.\n\n\u201cBecoming \u2018customer obsessive\u2019 is the top business concept that CIOs must master to be successful,\u201d says Edward Wagoner, CIO of digital at JLL Technologies. \u201cHistorically, IT teams have gotten requirements from businesspeople or through sales and product teams that meet directly with customers. We\u2019ve all been victim of a technology product that works but fails to meet the needs of the customer. The closer IT can get to the customer, the better we can understand what they value and what they need.\u201d\n\nHuman-centric work\n\nWith hybrid office environments here to stay, experts say CIOs must now understand how to make them work better.\n\nGartner\u2019s Tyler says this means organizations will have to transform their workplace from an office-centric design to a human-centric one.\n\nThe concept of a human-centric workplace goes beyond enabling virtual work and online collaboration, he explains. It\u2019s instead a deep dive into building an environment that supports the people.\n\n\u201cNow as we\u2019re all going back into the office, we have to think about what that looks like. We have to rethink work. We have to realize [workers] are human beings and think about what\u2019s the right balance of working from home versus the office, how do we deal with scheduling, how do we make workers feel connected, what works, what doesn\u2019t,\u201d Tyler says. \u201cThe CIO has to be part of those choices.\u201d\n\nOthers agree.\n\n\u201cA lot of businesses just went through a forced transformation due to the pandemic. They are now identifying what has worked well, what has not and what they want to keep,\u201d says Rebecca Gasser, CIO of Omnicon Health Group. \u201cIt also provides a unique opportunity to focus in on the employee experience and the future culture of the organization.\u201d\n\nBusiness resiliency\n\nCIOs are typically seen as experts in disaster recovery, and are key participants in business continuity planning. But some IT leaders now say they have to understand business resiliency at a whole new level. Because more organizations have global reach through customers, employees, and\/or service providers who stretch around the world, they\u2019ve had to contend with issues such as domestic and international civil unrest and war in addition to a pandemic.\n\n\u201cBusiness resiliency has taken on a different connotation today. There\u2019s a crisis management piece that to date CIOs have not been paying attention to,\u201d Lamoreaux says.\n\nLamoreaux said these events have executives asking: What would we do if supply chains face further disruption, whether a major industrial accident occurred, when the next country implements a lockdown?\n\n\u201cAnd many have been turning to CIOs to help get them through these questions, to figure out how to do things faster, cheaper, find new routes, and make it more secure,\u201d Lamoreaux says.