by Maryfran Johnson

What Do CEOs Want from CIOs?

Jun 09, 2010
IT Leadership

CIO magazine Editor in Chief Maryfran Johnson discusses what CEOs want from their CIOs and how the latter earns a seat at the boardroom table.

Debates about how CIOs can earn a “seat at the table” have been going on for so long now that the phrase itself has become a tiresome cliché.

Yet often missing from these earnest (if somewhat exhausting) discussions are the voices of the actual decision makers: the CEOs themselves. They’re the ones, after all, who make the ultimate call about who pulls that chair up to the boardroom table.

So what do CEOs want from their IT leaders? We set out to answer that as definitively as possible in our cover story, “What CEOs Expect,” which delivers some wonderfully candid, specific replies from the CEOs of leading enterprises such as Bayer, Fluor, Matson Navigation, MillerCoors, Scottrade and Reliance Capital.

Not surprisingly, CEOs want IT to help accelerate their businesses. More unexpected is the enlightened way in which many CEOs are recasting the jobs of their CIOs, even coaching them in executive strategy and politics. Several chief executives said they make a point of visibly supporting their CIOs to build the IT leaders’ credibility with other business-unit leaders. CEO Leo Kiely of MillerCoors, for example, gives his CIO specific feedback on what he’s hearing from “squeaky wheels” within the organization.

What you may find particularly heartening in our story is how many similarities exist between CEOs and the CIOs who make business strategy their top priority. While most CIOs may never aspire to running the entire company, learning to think more like the CEO is an effective way to sharpen your strategic focus.

Our story also includes a short list of questions you can use to assess your own business strategy chops, such as, “How many external customers have I met with in the past 12 months?” and, “Who are our top three business competitors? What are their competitive advantages or differentiations?”

Developing a more “outside-in” point of view about business strategy is a very useful exercise for CIOs, says Michael Capellas, CEO of Acadia and formerly CIO and CEO of Compaq.

“The difference between CEOs and CIOs is markets, products and sales channels,” he says.

While the CEO looks at those from the customer’s perspective, CIOs typically focus internally. “Learn your CEO’s agenda,” Capellas advises, “and make it your agenda.”

After all, what more could a CEO want?

Maryfran Johnson, Editor in Chief, CIO Magazine aanndd Events