Small and medium business\u2019 CIOs have much to teach larger enterprises, according to Fabienne Wintle, CIO of Navii, the Australian government-backed platform that supports small and medium businesses going digital.\n\nWintle, who is also the CIO of Tourism Tribe, had an interest in connecting businesses with information through technology, and tells CIO Australia she always saw technology as being about how to organise information and make it useful for business.\n\nA career related to tourism was a natural progression as she grew up in the holiday paradise of the Swiss Alps, but so was her enthusiasm about IT and its applications. These two combined saw her find her passion in helping smaller organisations. \u201cI really saw that there was something to be done for smaller businesses. That\u2019s how my career has evolved, being able to find the right technology for smaller businesses,\u201d she says.\n\nWhat enterprise CIOs can learn from small business CIOs and vice versa\n\nSmaller teams are less purely process driven and have more person-to-person exchanges and communication with the IT chief about embracing digital at every level. This helps getting each person to see there is value in thinking about how they can use their skills and knowledge of the business to improve the job they\u2019re doing, using information better with the support of technology, Wintle says.\n\nAnd when it comes to applications, small business CIOs have the opportunity to use solutions similar to those used by enterprises. But instead of simply trying to replicate an enterprise-level solution, small businesses have to find ways of retaining and adapting existing tools and looking for add-ons. Wintle tells of an instance when using project management tools, such as the Trello platform but wanting additional functionality. \u201cThe option as a small business is Jira, which is a full-blown system that would mean losing Trello, which mightn\u2019t work for the team. If you just need a Gantt chart view of the Trello board, look for that solution, which is an overlay on the Trello board.\u201d\n\nAnd one way to help smalls business CIOs to understand how to use enterprise solutions in their environment and get acquainted with the existing options it is to attend events that are suited to larger organisations so \u201cthey can get their brain flowing and see that with technology anything's available to any size business nowadays\u201d Wintle says. \u201cThinking about how to translate tools to work for smaller businesses and being hands on is something I would advise CIOs,\u201d she says.\n\nFor enterprise CIOs, talking to their counterparts at smaller organisations gives them the opportunity to realise how involved the small and medium business CIOs are across the entire organisation\u2019s functions and have a practical understanding of the entire operation. In her experience, CIOs in larger sized organisation may tend to plan the development of a CRM system without fully knowing how the business works, which ends up in a waste of resources.\n\nAnd this is why having a hands-on approach is important, so IT chiefs need to make it part of their job to see how other jobs within the organisation are done. \u201cBeing close to teams and understanding their needs, can make it quicker and easier to see problems and gaps and come up with solutions, that may be small but powerful. Sometimes it\u2019s just a few lines of code or a new formula for a spreadsheet. With digital, a small change can make a huge difference to a team,\u201d she says\n\nCIO training needs to be broad based\n\nWintle tells that her master\u2019s in information systems taught her to think about information and not just technology. \u201cBeing able to relate information and see how it works, as opposed to just hard coding things and not really realising how it fits in a business environment, has been so useful,\u201d she says.\n\nFor those who want to become a CIO, Wintle suggests they develop skills outside of those purely technical to be able to communicate better with all stakeholders across the business. This includes taking on human resources subjects while studying, if those are available. Wintle believes this helps in the long run specially when dealing with people who are reticent about changes, such as the introduction of a new system.\n\nFossicking for gold in the mountains of data\n\nWith many organisations awash in data, and the cyber risks that come with it, the task is making sense of what's important.\n\n\u201cData analytics is being able to find the nuggets of gold. I love data and I love systems, so I could be easily bogged down and looking at analytics for hours. But it's really important to just keep the strategic objectives in perspective and have very simple North Star metrics to focus on and always relate the data to that,\u201d she says.\n\nUnderstanding what data is important, draws on her previous lessons of understanding the entire business and its stakeholders. Learning what type of data is required by each stakeholder and having that focus is key to making that data visual.\n\nFor instance, small businesses might have a CRM, but the data is sitting there in the CRM, it's not being brought back to a simple Google Sheet that gets automatically updated and that the whole team can review. Working with data is finding that metric and then making it visible in a dynamic format. \u201cIt\u2019s making or organising data in the best way, using the right tools for the team to be able to make the most of it and not losing the connection to the business as to why you\u2019re doing this and not going off on a tangent,\u201d she says.\n\nThe other important element is being able to show teams how to access data and make sense of the data in their work. \u201cWhat has made a huge difference in our team is being able to understand how important it is to actually have the data structured in the way that we need, which is supporting the organisation\u2019s goals,\u201d she says.\n\n\u201cThe goal might be to grow the business to by 20%. But what does that mean in terms of the marketing team, for instance. Do they need to send more newsletters? Is it a Facebook group, is it more PR [public relations]?\u201d Wintle says.\n\nDays for strategic planning, for instance, can be used to establish objectives for the next year. \u201cSo, these are these North Star measures that everything needs to sit under. Then setting the metrics and connecting the data and reporting system back to these measures,\u201d she says.\n\nWhy digital transformation means thinking like a digital entrepreneur\n\nWhen it comes to the growing demand for digital transformation, Wintle thinks in many ways CIOs have been focused on digital transformation from day dot. For her, it\u2019s the opportunities digital brings to all levels of the business that require the CIO to step outside the tech HQ and head into the \u2018ring\u2019. \u201cBeing able to lead talent and entice them to 'think' like a digital entrepreneur is where the CIO's focus should be. CIOs must be able to communicate and empower the most tech-adverse employees to embrace innovation, at all levels of the business,\u201d she says.\n\nThis means connecting with people in engaging ways.\n\nGetting the team on board and realising how important it is to think like a digital entrepreneur is both an opportunity and a challenge, especially within smaller outfits. \u201cWhile the CIO role was for many years very much part of the IT team, it's spread throughout the whole of the organisation,\u201d she notes.\n\nRegardless of size, in any organisation every system or process is in some way reliant on technology. Even so, Wintle believes that it can still be a challenge encouraging some leaders and teams outside of the IT area to fully embrace this concept. \u201cIt's very important that CIOs are at the management discussion table and not perceived as the tech team down there,\u201d she says.\n\nIf CIOs aren\u2019t at the management discussion table, she believes this means the person above them does not understand how technology permeates throughout the organisation. In this case, they need a mentor or someone else to talk to their higher ups and even the CEO about the importance of digital.\n\nFor all organisations today the cost of doing business must account for the technology that is critical to success. It\u2019s the expertise that needs to be the minimum requirement for a successfully functioning organisation. Yet it can create a technical debt for smaller organisations that they must address. \u201cWhen I coach businesses, I\u2019ll say: \u2018You have to either become a digital entrepreneur yourself, or you're going to need to have one on the books all the time to guide you,\u201d she says.