Saturday, April 19, 2014

CIOs in the Boardroom: Which Gaps Shall you Bridge?

It is what the 'I' stands for –Information, Innovation, Insight, Improvement, and Influence, that needs to be represented by CIOs in the boardroom.

There is no question that businesses need digital leadership in today's boardrooms, as information becomes the life blood of business, digitalization is in every forward-thinking business’s agenda, and globalization turns to be the new normal of business expansion. All of these brings the significant opportunities and responsibilities for the new breed of CIOs: Do you want a seat in the Boardroom, which gaps shall you bridge? Digital gap, information gap, innovation gap or global gap?

CIOs are seeking impact, they're seeking influence - so a seat on the board is definitely in their minds. Companies who do value the input of CIOs are generally very progressive in their thinking, and as such, they tend to do very well. So CIOs should build the credibility with your executive colleagues through making valued contributions and demonstrating effective delivery at whatever level you can achieve, and you will find that you are listened to and invited to contribute further. Digital moves center stage, there should be at least one person in the executive team who is competent in respect of 'digital governance', that person should be the CIO.

It is not about the title of the CIO in the boardroom - but rather the TOPIC of information as an asset that needs to be represented in the boardroom. It is what the 'I' stands for –Information, Innovation, Insight, Improvement, and Influence. The question is to establish whether CIOs recognize the strategic importance of the 'I' and in turn are motivated to set their sights on the boardroom. When IT is seen as just a delivery arm for technology in a corporation's operations, instead of a strategic business driver, the company loses their competitive edge. On the rocky road to digital transformation, the board and senior leadership team need to have a good strategy on how they use information to make the right decision to win in the marketplace. Instead of being caught up in titles and roles, you need to be focusing on the right strategic levers for success.

CIOs are in the boardroom with their expertise in evaluating the positioning of technology in the corporate strategy. Board service is not about a seat at the table. Board service is about organizations viewing the technology discipline as a strategic function in the organization in the same way that finances, M&A or marketing strategies would be viewed. And CIOs can understand the business drivers, pain points and offer technology or process related solutions to aid productivity and gain a competitive edge. As CIO with an eye toward board service, you must learn how to better communicate the technology advantages in business terms so that thoughtful strategies can be evaluated and the associated risks weighed against the benefits. 

 The culture and maturity of an organization weigh in a great deal of the CIO's desire - or ability - to be at the table with other C-suite executives. Many CIOs today have the mindset to be at the table, but the corporate culture will dictate what kind of voice they can have. You definitely need the combination of business leaders wanting a CIO on the board and the incumbent CIO wanting to take the opportunity. In the more information-oriented organizations, the CIO drives strategic direction for the company, in the use of both technology and information as an asset to drive value. 

 The CIO must be part of the business! Also, in order to be considered a member of the Board, the CIO must do more than just manage the "Bits & Bytes".  If such a status is  achieved, the CIO is either part of the Board or not too far from it. However, it appears that some CIOs have no real interest in joining the top table; or some top tables are already too crowded so being a mono-functional leader doesn't qualify the CIO for inclusion. But Boards that are progressive will see the need for the discipline, and IT leaders with business acumen and technical expertise will step up to the role. On top of that the CIO needs to have the capabilities (using the right language, influence skills, personal brand development and so on) that will enable them to remain on the board. As technology has become such a mainstream enabler of strategy, the non-IT leaders are more information and tech savvy, and the CIO has to become more business savvy to keep up. 

Not every IT employee wants to ascend to become a CIO. Similarly, not every CIO wants to get a seat at the table. Almost all CIOs interact at the Board Level - it is just a matter of degree. But the CIO as "Chief Influence Officer," needs to be well prepared, make leadership influence when having opportunities. Forward-looking businesses need to be evangelists for the true CIO role that sits at the table and plays a part in the business and bridge the gaps for, information and innovation, digitalization, and globalization.


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