Today’s CIO needs to learn the language of the board: The first lesson

As IT has become more integral to business the role of the CIO is changing. In fact, of all the roles within an organisation, the job of the CIO has changed the most in recent years.  And as businesses everywhere go through their own flavour of digital transformation, the role will continue to evolve.   Where once they were primarily concerned with building and delivering technology, CIOs today are likely to focus more on influencing the purchase of a range of technologies, and on nurturing talent and innovation across the business. 

In order to successfully deliver on this increasingly important strategic role, CIOs must adapt.  If they don’t they could well fall victim to the long-standing joke in IT circles: career is over.  The good news is there are a number of practical steps that can be taken to avoid that happening.

Get out from the shadows

Historically, IT teams have been considered a back-end operation providing products and services such as infrastructure, security and maintenance to internal users. Now a significant portion of IT budgets is devoted to cloud-based applications.  Today’s CIO and his/her team must provide conventional technical services consistently, as well as innovate in a faster, more agile manner to stay competitive. Today the IT department is operating on the front lines of business and customers have become an IT priority.

Influence the boardroom

Today’s CIO has a central role in creating corporate strategy.  With IT established as an integral part of business, the CIO should position him/herself to become an influencer within the boardroom, using the rise of digital technology as an opportunity to drive digital strategy.  More than just an IT engineer, the CIO and top IT management are today’s business decision-makers. 

A savvy CIO boardroom influencer will boost cross-departmental collaboration to increase efficiency and cut costs, as well as creating true partnerships at the top where they can demonstrate leadership. For example, the CIO can engage digitally-savvy customers, by teaming up with the CMO. Using data to get to know customers better, identifying behaviour patterns and predicting trends, analysing profitability of products and services so they can be flexible in offerings. The entire organisation faces the digital disruption challenge so it’s up the CIO to provide leadership, decision-making, performance improvement and innovation.

Create business-focused IT teams

As a driver of organisational change and innovation, the IT team must operate as a strong, capable, multi-disciplinary business within the larger company. Most IT employees however, have technical backgrounds with little business skills training or experience.  IT leaders often struggle to provide a basic level of business, communication, business analysis, project management, management, leadership and other “non-technical” skills to their teams.

This is what makes collaboration with other business units, as well as strategic hiring and training practices, of the utmost importance. CIOs need to put time into establishing personal relationships with business peers to take a truly multi-disciplinary approach to running the IT business while they grow talent within their own units.  CIOs must break down any existing barriers between themselves and the rest of the C-suite to show marketing, finance, human resources, and the other senior executives that IT plays a role in enhancing other business units.

Address the skills shortage head-on

In the past, it was common practice to outsource large portions of IT services but in order to address the new expectations placed upon IT, organisations are now looking to bring more workers and skills back in-house. However, as companies look to fill more in-house IT openings, they are faced with a skills shortage. CIOs looking to transform their business cannot get far without the right talent – but demand for certain skills often greatly exceeds supply.

To combat skill gaps and staffing shortages, forward thinking CIOs are turning to intelligent eLearning solutions that provide IT teams with engaging, multi-modal content and tailored learning paths. This approach can meet each individual’s learning requirements and encourages people to fit learning into their working day when and where they can.

Ultimately, as digital transformation continues to heavily impact all aspects of businesses, CIOs will need to move away from their traditional IT role, into a business leader. By honing leadership skills, being open to collaboration with other department heads and ensuring their IT teams are adequately skilled for digital transformation, CIOs can firmly position themselves as boardroom influencers.

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