Thursday, June 11, 2015

CIO as Chief Interaction Officer: What are the Strategic Conversation between CIO and Other CXOs all About?

CIOs need to be an IT evangelist, learn to sell, speak business, but it's a two-way street.

IT is no longer running as an isolated function or back office utility, nowadays, IT has to add more business value and delight both internal and end customers. Hence, CIO needs to talk about business with other C-Level more often, but not about IT. This is the major issue in companies. IT is a way to innovate business and improve processes, but it's not the solution if CIO doesn't understand business areas. CIOs must be adding value to the business and it is essential in decisions businesses ever make. However, as CIOs, how should you interpret IT aspects as a business issues to the CXOs? How do you avoid the details of any IT decision and still convince the CXO it is the good strategy to make or best action to take?


Focus on discussing how to leverage IT for implementing strategy and engage IT in business transformation. As CIO, it is always a challenge and important task to align IT into the overall business strategy, also, engage IT with long-term business modernization and transformation. The big concern in most of the organization is dealing with change, as the current business environment changes so fast that it is even though for the business user to cope, it’s even tougher for IT department to adjust quickly to support. Companies that uses technology to create key differentiation among the competition is usually much successful than those who don't, it is important for CIO to work closely with other CXOs to align, and engage IT with overall business strategy internally and externally.With digital transformation is at agenda of any forward-thinking organizations,  this is a phenomenal opportunity for the CIO to educate other executive leadership teams on the value of IT and how she/he can help accelerate the leadership's strategy and agenda coming and for the future years. Initially, it may seem to be an uphill situation, but every progress is made via overcoming business obstacles and avoid potential pitfalls. Technology is critical to the foundation and future of all industries, don't roll over.


The strategic conversation between CIO and other C levels focuses on both top-line business growth and innovation, as well as bottom line business efficiency. The top CEO concerns are customer retention, recurring revenues, new customer acquisition, talent development and profitable bottom line growth. Technology is a means to an end. Smart CIOs are talking about the strategic use of technology to meet these concerns and if they are really smart, they are working with other C-Levels in the power base to ensure that technology delivering is aligned and they can show an ROI. IT drives products, services, customers, line functions, staff functions, in short, IT is the lifeblood of the business. If you have a CEO that "thinks" they know IT, they don't listen because you are explaining something they thought was easy, but the implementation is difficult because you actually understand the thing. If they then stop trusting or caring. It must be hard for a CEO to put the trust they need into their senior IT staff. Often CEO and CIO really do not even speak the same language when they discuss the same thing. It's not only about IT not understanding business; it is that business does not yet understand IT as well. IT is now permeating into almost all key processes of business, and IT is the key elements to shape a differentiated set of business capabilities which underpin strategic executions.


CIOs need to be an IT evangelist, learn to sell, speak business, but it's a two-way street; and CXOs need to understand what a CIO is and the value that technology can be to their business operations, growth and profits. More and more CEO are understanding the role of CIO and have an ear to the CIO proposals. And there are a number of CIOs moving to CEO position. This shows a positive trend and progress is being made slowly, but steadily and across multiple industries, you can also observe a number of businesses have made short term profit through their core business (and being very good at it) but fail to recognize the longer term, strategic aspects of technology beyond PCs on desks and facilities to store documents. They look to spend as little as possible on technology, because of this perception instead of truly understanding what technology can do and investing in innovation to improve service, be more competitive and...make more money and create long-term sustainability. In other cases, how many times have you seen a great small company give excellent service and then watched them grow and experienced the almost inevitable decline of service quality - the very thing that supported their growth? The same lack of understanding and vision at the top is what prevents the openness to embrace technology as it evolves into a completely different role from the traditional 'keep the lights on.' CIOs cannot provide strategic input if CXOs are fixated on short-term profits and returns, and hence have their CFOs glued to their ears. CXOs and Boards need to change their attitudes at a much greater pace if they are truly interested in strategy and long-term, sustainable business growth, and profits.


One of the most important imperatives to the success of any company is its personnel. CXOs must mandate that every manager, senior or 1st Line, be skilled in the areas of motivation, reward, and career advancement. Without these three keystone components, companies will have a turnover above the norm in the highly aggressive open-positions-market. At bottom-line, it's about people. The qualified personnel in every organization exceeding expectations impacts the CXO's position. Through rounds of such in-depth conversations between CXOs, both CIOs and other C-levels should understand where IT fits into the business like they understand where every part of the business fits into servicing the customer. It's not necessary for them to know the technical details unless they impact a service a company is trying to build for their customers. For the tactical, hopefully, they trust the team to deliver the result to meet customers’ expectation. IT is no longer just a commodity, IT now needs more business guidance, communicate more often, and work more collaboratively with both senior executives and other functional leaders to tailor business needs and deliver value. Only by putting these views out there to provoke thought, can IT possibly enact or act as a catalyst to change.

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