new-world-designHere’s a phenomenon that has added a new dimension of complexity to the CIO’s role: The modern CEO understands technology far better than his or her predecessors.

In fact, it’s increasingly rare to find a CEO who does not possess a fairly good working knowledge of current digital technology. The typical CEO understands how technology creates value – if not precisely, then generally – and believes deeply that technology is absolutely essential to the success of the 21st century enterprise. It’s all a far cry from the 1980s and 1990s, when many top executives regarded IT as a backroom operation.

This raises an interesting question: As CIOs, are we truly ready to deal with CEOs and other senior executives who understand technology? I think we can all agree that it’s better for the CIO when the CEO and the board understand the value of technology. But how should the CIO respond when tech-savvy executives second-guess the IT team’s recommendations? There’s an old saying that goes, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Sometimes that can apply to senior executives who know a little about technology.

So, what’s the best way for CIOs to handle conversations about technology with their peers in the C-suite? My suggestion would be to steer the conversation from technology to value creation. Shifting the focus to value creation means you’re talking about results. That will immediately make the conversation more productive and less argumentative. In reality, the conversation should always be focused on results, and not on the technology used to achieve the results.

I’m all in favor of CEOs who understand technology, but a big part of the CIO’s role is reminding the CEO and other senior executives that technology is only a means to an end. The results are what matter. Naturally, you’ll have to figure out a diplomatic way of expressing all of that. But as the CIO, you are responsible for guiding the conversation away from technology and toward value creation.  

Please consider attending one of our upcoming summits. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing your viewpoints on our exciting journey to the future of technology leadership.