Friday, August 14, 2015

How do you Define the Strategic Role of CIOs at Board Level

The CIO is a serious partner in the inner circle to creating value-added strategies and enabling deeper insights into the opportunities IT can do.

Due to the changing nature of technology, the CIO role continues to be shaken up, refined, reinvented and reenergized and many IT organizations are at a crossroad to either being transformed to be a more value-added digital engine for their business growth or being irrelevant as a cost center only. How do you define the strategic role of CIOs at Board Level and what are important skills they need to cultivate?  

The board and top leadership team should help to define the CIO role in the same as the other CXO roles have been defined. There are two sorts of CIOs and it's worth making the effort to reach out and find the ones that are strategic, board-level material; the other type is operation driven, 'keep the lights on' type of people, more tactical than strategic. There can be no ambiguity about what a CIO role is and it shouldn't be just 'keep the lights on' person, that should be given a different title IT Manager. A CIO can be as good as a leader as possible, nevertheless not achieve the set goals because of business or financial decisions that do not provide the basis to lead IT processes (internal and outsourced), documentation and cross-departmental communication. The highly effective corporations need to embed the power of information in its fiber to weave agility and other business competencies, to ensure it is part of its executive selection process and have a program to maintain the directories awareness if the organization systems remain a challenge.

Sales and presentation skills are crucial if a CIO is significantly powerful: This is why so many CIO positions are filled by non-tech people, due to the impression that IT geeks cannot communicate in business dialect with clarity. So what tech person should do to have CIO required "sales" skills to succeed in this position? Or even to be considered for this position. Just develop those skills. It's necessary and inevitable. The faster you realize it, embrace it and start to act on it - the better for your leadership effectiveness. This is why it is extremely important that CIOs who want to, and can work at the strategic board level, need to get the message outside of their own circles so that they can make an influence on organizational, industrial or even national scope and beyond. Businesses can empower their CIOs to voice and contribute more at the strategic level. Organizations can select corporate directors by testing the candidate's IT knowledge and digital fluency.

Making the IT department a profit center is one of the biggest challenges in most organizations: The cost part of the IT departments should be part of an overall corporate/company budget. Nevertheless, it surely is a political decision on how to regard the CIO's position and what to expect getting back from it. Often the reality has changed the role of a CIO into a business and cost aware IT Manager that negotiates daily between new technologies and stable high-availability environments, IT has to provide stability and operational health - which requires a serious amount of positive communication whilst continuously looking for the cost-efficient replacement of unstable or "old" processes. That role requires a series of meetings based on trust relationships with colleagues and peers - and a healthy amount of time to validating received proposals and comments in order to create a sound IT strategy and action plan for the near future. In many cases, this is seen as a service provider - hence a cost center. IT can produce profits on its own, in certain areas. In others, it should, at least, become break-even, by charging out what it really costs. Therefore, making the IT department a profit center is what the real challenge in most of the organizations, because it requires some kind of rethinking and reinventing the corporate processes and creating that changed sense of maintenance and support to services provisioning of many different kinds, such as consolidation and even insourcing at a cost - putting on wheels a new profit center.

The CIO is a serious partner in the inner circle to creating value-added strategies and enabling deeper insights into the opportunities IT can do. It's easy to say the onus rests on strategic CIOs to educate boards but, it can be difficult to just get the opportunity to inform them of the benefits of looking at technology (IT) from a strategic perspective. It’s important to have “mainstream” media conveying the updated information and insight, to inform CXOs and board members about the benefits of strategic CIOs and value-added IT. CIOs need to lead the department so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with the IT teams. With these in place, CIOs can transform from a technology manager into a business leader, and from a tactical manager to a strategic adviser.


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