Sandwich-focused restaurant franchise Subway has some 37,000 locations worldwide, each of which faces a unique combination of factors, such as local competition and customer demographics, that impact sales and profitability.\n\nBut Donagh Herlihy, the company\u2019s chief digital and information officer, has a corporate-level solution to help each individual store determine \u201cthe sweet spot of pricing\u201d to optimize profitability for that restaurant.\n\nThe initiative, heavy on data and analytics, will sift through myriad market factors affecting each store to land on the optimal prices \u2014 and, in the process, boost revenue for franchise owners and the company itself.\n\nFor Herlihy, identifying ways to drive revenue growth is all in a day\u2019s work for modern tech execs. \u201cGrowth, profitability, productivity, and engagement are all now part of the CIO role that 20 years ago was all about internal operations,\u201d says Herlihy, who has been an IT executive since landing his first CIO position in 2000.\n\nTo deliver on that growth objective, Herlihy has been focused on enabling digital sales channels and maximizing the use of the data derived from them.\n\nThose are activities where the IT team can really prove their value, because they can only be done with the right technologies in place.\n\nFor example, Subway IT has helped drive digital sales up 500% from 2019 to 2023, thanks to its work on Subway\u2019s own digital channels as well as with third-party food delivery services, Herlihy says. Much of that work started in response to the pandemic.\n\nAnd Herlihy points to his team\u2019s work on building a data environment that can be used to improve customer experience. For example, Subway gathers and analyzes data from its digital sales channels to identify possible friction in the customer experience \u2014 such as where customers abandon their online ordering \u2014 as well as opportunities for enhanced customer engagement, all of which helps ensure customers place their orders.\n\nHerlihy is now scaling that data work: \u201cWe built all of that for North America, which is our biggest region, but now we can take those platforms to Europe, Asia, and Latin America and expand it around the world,\u201d he says.\n\nMeanwhile, Herlihy and his team are delivering more data-driven capabilities using machine learning and other data science technologies, collaborating with the business units to, for example, create personalized messaging and targeted marketing campaigns aimed at further boosting sales.\n\nRevenue takes center stage\n\nHerlihy\u2019s vision for top IT leadership is not an anomaly.\n\nA 2022 report from Info-Tech Research Group revealed that supporting revenue growth was No. 4 on the list of priorities cited by CIOs, after business process improvements, digital transformation, and modernization.\n\nOther researchers agree, with Forrester Research declaring, \u201cThe tech leader\u2019s role is evolving from a niche focus on technology strategy to a crucial business enabler with a seat at the table where pivotal decisions are made \u2014 and top-line revenue growth is generated.\u201d\n\nGranted, CIOs aren\u2019t running sales teams or marketing campaigns, where there\u2019s a more obvious link between their everyday activities and money-making purchases and inked contracts.\n\nBut veteran CIOs like Herlihy, executive consultants, and business researchers say today\u2019s digital business environment has created a growing number of opportunities for CIOs and their teams to engage in work that does indeed directly and concretely support revenue growth.\n\n\u201cThe business operations leaders, those line leaders if you will, are responsible for going to market. But the CIO is responsible for enabling that, efficiently and rapidly, so those opportunities aren\u2019t missed, and that\u2019s where the CIO\u2019s focus should be,\u201d says Marc Tanowitz, managing partner for advisory and transformation at digital service firm West Monroe.\n\nGrowth-focused activities\n\nAccording to CIO.com\u2019s State of the CIO Survey, 68% of CIOs say creating new revenue-generating initiatives is now part of their job. To that end, the survey identified the top 10 activities CIOs are undertaking to help drive more revenue to their business as:\n\nOf note, too, is No. 12: Cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, with 18% listing that as one of their priorities.\n\nCIOs in recent years have created the bandwidth they need to focus on revenue and growth, by offloading application and infrastructure management to software-as-a-service and cloud vendors, says Shankar Narayanan, president and deputy head of the Business Transformation Group at Tata Consultancy Services.\n\nAt the same time, he says CIOs who moved to the cloud and deployed capabilities such as low-code platforms, which enable business unit workers to create software features, created the technology foundation necessary for CIOs to deploy the more advanced tech tools and niche functions that directly support revenue-generating processes.\n\nCIOs who are driving new revenue are:\n\nDelivering technologies designed to meet specific business outcomes. For example, Narayanan has seen CIOs focus their teams on creating applications designed not merely on high availability and reliability but on hitting very specific business goals \u2014 such as enabling on-time deliveries to its customers.\n\nUnlocking data\u2019s potential. Narayanan says he has also seen CIOs make big plays with their data programs, investing in the technology infrastructure needed to bring together and analyze data sets to create new services or products and drive business objectives such as improved customer retention and customer stickiness.\n\nCo-creating with their business unit colleagues. Notably, Narayanan says CIOs are approaching their business unit colleagues with such proposals. \u201cCIOs [are saying], \u2018Here\u2019s an opportunity. We have this data, and we can make this data do this for you,\u2019 and they then bring that to life. And if they say, \u2018This is what we have and this is what we can do,\u2019 then the business, too, can come up with new ideas.\u201d\n\nEmbedding themselves in the business. Herlihy draws on the principle of \u201cgenchi genbutsu,\u201d or \u201cgo and see for yourself\u201d in Japanese. In other words, walk in your own customer\u2019s shoes. Herlihy worked in a Subway shop before taking his seat in the CIO office, and he asks his team to gain such experience, too. He leaned into the principle in 2022, when he traveled to the United Kingdom and several European countries to explore whether deploying self-order kiosks would work in that market; the trip and a subsequent successful pilot demonstrated that enabling such high-tech kiosks would indeed help with sales. (He shares: \u201cGuests will upsell themselves when they\u2019re in front of a well-presented display of our products.\u201d)\n\nSeek out opportunities. \u201cIT should always be viewed as more than \u2018order-takers\u2019 because we are a critical part of the revenue generation lifecycle,\u201d says author and global technology leader Rhonda Vetere, who previously worked as both a CIO and a chief information and technology officer. Vetere says CIOs should identify opportunities where they can work with other functional leaders on revenue-focused initiatives. She cites as examples her work on redesigning a consumer brand website to incorporate a loyalty program and clicks-to-purchase \u2014 moves that drove sales, and thus, revenue growth \u2014 as well as bringing design thinking to make online banking more efficient for the banks\u2019 customers. She adds: \u201cAlways go back to the company strategy and goals \u2014 the top business priorities should correlate with the activities of IT and areas of focus.\u201d\n\nTed Schadler, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester, whose work has focused on tech\u2019s new role in growth, says \u201cempowered CIOs\u201d enable growth by flawlessly scaling and securing customer solutions, create growth by collaboratively building products that open new markets, and amplify growth by elevating insights, automation, and algorithms to optimize everything.\n\nMore work to do\n\nHow much of a CIO\u2019s time is spent on growth-focused activities varies by industry and by company, Schadler says.\n\nBut CIOs are well positioned to collaborate on growth initiatives because, unlike most other enterprise roles, they see across the enterprise and \u201ccan see patterns that lie outside of any single product,\u201d Schadler says. He recounts how the CIO at a medical device company worked across four business units building an IoT platform to power the various products all four were seeking, work the CIO was able to unify because of the visibility he had.\n\nSchadler says not all CIOs are empowered to do that work.\n\n\u201cThey\u2019ve been told they can\u2019t, so they don\u2019t,\u201d he says, adding that he believes CIOs have the skills, knowledge, and practices \u2014 such as agile development \u2014 to successfully move into growth activities.\n\n\u201cBut we hear stories that once they do, the engine just cranks up,\u201d he adds.\n\nIn fact, Schadler says a growing number of CIOs are indeed venturing into such work; however, they remain part of a small percentage whose role is tied in with revenue. When Forrester asked CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs whether they were personally familiar with revenue growth as a business objective, only 18% of CIOs agreed (compared to 28% of CTOs and 35% of CEOs).\n\nTanowitz says he, too, sees some CIOs struggle to take on more revenue-generating activities. Yet, like Schadler, he also sees more CIOs growing into that work.\n\nThe CIOs who are moving into that space are developing a product-centric mindset and IT culture. They\u2019re embracing agile and DevSecOps to enable their companies to quickly address market needs, \u201cwhich does drive revenue,\u201d Tanowitz says. And they\u2019re building strong data, analytics, and intelligence programs to support the creation of new products and services.\n\n\u201cI think it\u2019s on the CIO to lay out a vision and engage the organization on the value the CIO can bring,\u201d Tanowitz adds.