Making the shift from project- to product-based IT requires more than just an operational map of capabilities and the cross-functional teams that will own them. It takes an organization-wide shift in mindset that gets people thinking and working in ways that align with the client\u2019s definition of value.\n\nSalumeh \u201cSal\u201d Companieh, chief digital and information officer of Cushman & Wakefield, has done exactly that since she signed on in March 2022 to lead the global real estate services company\u2019s IT organization in a relentless quest to create better experiences for its clients.\n\n\u201cWe have two major client-facing groups of professionals \u2014 Services and Advisory,\u201d she says. \u201cWhat we\u2019re really trying to do, among those colleagues and our technology team, is create a closer proximity to the client demand.\u201d\n\nMany CIOs, for all their zeal in shifting to a product-oriented operating model, get mired in operational logistics at the expense of execution, often because they don\u2019t know how to put the right attitude into action. For any CIO seeking to make good on the promise of product-oriented IT, Companieh offers three actions they can take to drive a client-centric mindset throughout the organization: Get closer to the client, think \u201cexperience,\u201d and pivot without pause.\n\nGet closer to the client \u2014 and the problem\n\nIn her first few months as CDIO, Companieh quickly established herself as a leader with an intense focus on client experience. Each time we spoke with Companieh, she was coming from a client meeting \u2014 a somewhat rare devotion from a CIO that we felt compelled to ask her about.\n\n\u201cSitting in the CDIO seat, it\u2019s very easy to tinker,\u201d she said. \u201cIt\u2019s easy to create roadmaps that sound great from a technology point of view, but that don\u2019t take people\u2019s experience or existing capabilities into consideration. The further you are from the ask and the client demand, the less likely you are to make an impact with your technology.\u201d\n\nWhen CIOs don\u2019t attend important client meetings, they set up business partners to effectively craft solutions without the technology team. Instead, IT leaders and their teams should get closer to clients, Companieh says, in order to get a clear understanding of their problems.\n\n\u201cWe get much better collaboration when we hear it from the client ourselves \u2014 whether that client is an internal one like an employee or broker, or an external company \u2014 and our people get the chance to understand the issue through all of their own lenses,\u201d she says.\n\nThis shift is critical to product-oriented success. Organizations must break out of what Companieh calls \u201cself-solve\u201d culture, in which the business is put in a position to decide which technology solutions fit best. Instead, IT can have a more meaningful impact if your technologists have a deep understanding of not only the full spectrum of technology solutions that can address an opportunity, but also the relevant business operations and experiences.\n\nTo accomplish this, and establish yourself as a true business leader, you must assert yourself. Ask to join rather than wait for an invitation. The closer you are as a leader to the client or the operations of the business, the more opportunities you will have to solve problems \u2014 and those opportunities will always require close partnerships to help maximize the impact of the digital footprint.\n\nThink \u2018experience\u2019\n\nAnother reason Companieh puts herself in front of clients is because technology increasingly serves as the connective tissue of the entire business. This wasn\u2019t the case just a few years ago.\n\n\u201cWhen prop-tech first came out, it was about creating a lot of technology touch points,\u201d Companieh says, referring to the technology the real estate industry uses to digitalize the way people buy, sell, market, and manage a property. \u201cNow we\u2019re starting to see many of those touchpoints converge into integrated experiences.\u201d\n\nManaging those experiences requires a tight link between IT and other parts of the business. To achieve this, Companieh has deployed three business information officers (BIOs), two for the revenue-generating Services and Advisory parts of the business, and one for enterprise-level internal efficiencies. Her BIOs operate in a two-in-a-box model, each working closely with a business partner to enhance a specific experience. When solving problems, BIOs pledge no allegiance to a specific tool or technology.\n\n\u201cWe use these amazing colleagues and their teams to try to embed an architectural mindset that creates accountability for the experience,\u201d Companieh says. \u201cTools and data don\u2019t do anything on their own. They should serve the problem you\u2019re trying to solve or the experience you\u2019re trying to create.\u201d\n\nCommitment to experience also requires reassessing how technologies are organized and managed, including decentralizing certain tools. For example, to empower client-facing professionals to solve problems, IT may need to manage data and business intelligence as a service that individuals can access when and how they need it.\n\nPivot without pause\n\nNo matter how carefully you map client experiences or define the products that support those experiences, you undoubtedly will have to pivot, Companieh says, adding that IT leaders should learn to see pivots as a good thing.\n\n\u201cSomething we decide today, I have no doubt, will change in nine months. Not because we\u2019re wrong, but because our ability to be agile to our clients\u2019 demands and what\u2019s happening at a macro scale in the market has to be there,\u201d she says. \u201cWhat we can\u2019t do is be forceful with our thinking and not look back.\u201d\n\nIf you\u2019re not pivoting, you\u2019re likely neglecting what Companieh sees as one of the most important attributes of growth-focused CIOs: welcoming and implementing feedback.\n\nCommunicating early and often is key to pivoting effectively. \u201cDon\u2019t hide behind the technology,\u201d she warns. \u201cExplain what you\u2019re doing to gain insights for your strategy, how you\u2019re going to communicate it back out, and how you\u2019re going to take action. And learn to balance communication between your employees and your clients. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but it\u2019s a critical one in your first 120 days.\u201d\n\nIf instead you work from the safety of your CIO office, far from the client, you will proportionately dilute your impact as a leader. And if you show you don\u2019t care to solve problems holistically or regress to siloed, project-based, tool-oriented thinking when it\u2019s time to pivot, then your employees, consciously or not, will adopt the same thinking to the detriment of the enterprise.\n\nFinally, she says, \u201cRemember that the lack of a decision is far worse for the organization than making a decision of whatever impact.\u201d As a new CIO, it\u2019s easy to overanalyze a situation. For Companieh, it\u2019s important to make a decision and execute, be transparent when you make a mistake, then pivot.