CIO playbook: 4 steps to becoming a C-suite strategic advisor

CIOs have a unique opportunity to take their place as business leaders. Most are missing out.

CIO playbook: 4 steps to becoming a C-suite strategic advisor
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“A seat at the table.” This overused phrase comes up in almost every conversation about the role of the CIO in an organization’s leadership. IT leaders have been saying for years that they need to be included in strategic planning, and in high-level C-suite meetings, and to have a direct line of communication with the CEO.

The opportunity to do just that is finally here for CIOs smart enough to take it. That’s because CEOs and other top executives are more focused on technology than at any time in the past. The concept of digital transformation has taken hold in the boardroom just as it has in IT, and CEOs are counting on new technology to boost the bottom line and save their organizations from being disrupted out of existence. That means they need experts to guide them through the new digital landscape and help them create new offerings that keep them ahead of the competition.

This sentiment came through loud and clear in recent executive surveys. In our State of the CIO survey, when asked to characterize IT leadership’s role within their organizations, 59 percent of respondents said IT leaders act as strategic advisors who proactively identify business needs and recommend appropriate technology.

In a February Grant Thornton survey, 79 percent of CIOs said IT has a voice in business strategy decisions. And a recent Gartner research report found that most CEOs see growth as their top priority, and they expect that growth to come from “new digital products and services, not just from an improved customer experience.”

This desire for a more digital future can mean a fundamental shift in how IT organizations fit into a business as a whole. Traditionally, IT had been seen as a support function whose objective was to enable the real business of the organization while costing as little as possible. But as digital products, digital services, and digitally enabled customer interfaces are increasingly seen as game-changing, IT organizations can take their place on the revenue-generating side of the divide — if they have the know-how and the courage to do it.

Most don’t, according to Janelle Hill, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, and co-author of the report. “We are at an opportunity in the history of information and technology,” she says. IT can make a paradigm shift from supporting the business to having IT assets seen as strategic business assets that are recorded above the line as revenue-generating or profit-enabling, she adds. “Many CIOs are not recognizing that they have this opportunity.”

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