How Technology Innovations Can Make Or Break A CIO

BrandPost By Laurie Elliott, Sungard Availability Services Contributor
Apr 02, 20154 mins
IT Strategy

The CIO now determines the role of technology innovations in raising their business to the next level.

Over the last 20 years, many businesses have transformed IT’s role from a cost center to a strategic business contributor. Driving the transition is a new type of CIO–a business leader who, rather than looking to technology to simply keep the business running, analyzes technology innovations and determines how to apply them to advance the business.

While technologists or engineers held the CIO positions up through the late 90’s, today’s CIOs are mainly businessmen and women. These new IT leaders look to IT to deliver new services in new ways to new markets to support business growth. They drive IT to be more agile and more open to new types of solutions. For example they might adopt business analytics to answer questions, such as how a manufacturer might achieve faster market success for its products. Today’s CIOs still develop technology roadmaps, but these now support the business roadmap.

CIO’s are increasingly becoming industry leaders, as well as leaders in their company. They look for industry best practices and seek out the advice of industry experts to identify ways IT can drive competitive advantage.

This transition has not been without its challenges however. The paradigm shift from being a technology leader to being a business leader has been fraught with opposition—mainly from the IT staff itself. How can modern CIOs overcome these challenges?

Overcoming the Challenges Faced by the New Breed of CIO

Change is difficult for most people to accept. When IT staff refuses to adopt their new roles, this causes disconnects between the CIO’s vision and the staff’s implementation. Vendors often see this firsthand in customer meetings when the CIO tells them the direction they want to take IT, and then the IT Staff explains all the reasons the plan will fail after the CIO leaves the meeting.

Statistics tell us the average tenure of a CIO in a company is two to three years, which is not long enough to affect the type of change most companies need. In order to last longer in their role, CIOs need to:

  1. Create a shared vision. CIOs need a clear vision and business roadmap that their executives not only endorse but also communicate. They also require buy-in from key members of their staff. The vision must come from a solid business plan that spells out all business financials to communicate the investment, the return on the investment (ROI) and the time to achieve returns (TTR) to business units.
  2. Inspire the change, not impose it. CIOs need to recognize those that support the advancement of IT’s position in the company to one of a business contributor. They must assess their staff to understand the personalities and determine who will be their evangelists to help drive change from within. It’s also important to create plans to move others into that role.
  3. Celebrate the wins. CIOs need to set realistic milestones and celebrate their achievements. Acknowledging wins early-on will bring more visibility to the project to continue to grow support from both executives and the IT staff.
  4. Over-communicate. CIO’s need to work with their key stakeholders to evangelize for change. CIO’s need to ensure ongoing communication at regular intervals to all audiences to report progress, provide updates, promote key project milestone wins and recognize project contributors.

CIOs in the early stages of developing their business and technology direction might seek assistance from industry experts who can provide best practices and business reference architectures. A new type of consultant, the Business Architect, is emerging as a counterpart to Technology and Solution Architects. The Business Architect works with the businesses and develops tools, such as industry best practices, use cases, TCO and ROI modeling and industry-specific business reference architectures to help create an IT business roadmap.

Many businesses continue to look upon IT as a cost center and not as a contributor to business growth. Many IT organizations are not visionary or nimble enough to deliver the innovation that their business units require, causing business units to contract IT services outside the company. Regardless, the CIO must recognize the situation and accept the challenge of driving change.