boston-shawn-mark-updatedThe long-standing industry joke has been that the acronym 'CIO' stands for 'Career is Over'. But as technology has become pervasive in helping companies in every industry to reduce costs, improve the customer experience and provide opportunities to help the organization to gain a competitive edge, many CIOs have rightfully earned a seat at the table with CEOs and fellow members of the C-suite for their role in contributing to organizational strategy and execution.

This helps explain why more than half of CIOs (57%) report that the business expects them to assist in business innovation and in developing new products and services, according to Deloitte's 2016-2017 Global CIO Survey

To shed light on the attributes needed by CIOs to succeed in the fast-paced and highly-disruptive modern enterprise, HMG Strategy recently spoke to two search executives who are involved with our upcoming 2018 Boston CIO Executive Leadership Summit taking place on September 13 - advisory board member Shawn Banerji, Managing Partner, Technology Digital and Data Leaders Practice at Caldwell Partners; and Mark Polansky, Senior Partner, Technology Officers Practice at Korn Ferry who will be speaking at the conference.

HMG Strategy: What should be the CIO's role in helping to identify opportunities to transform the business?

Shawn Banerji: What we're hearing in conversations we're having with boards and various stakeholders is this battle cry of `IT is Dead: Long Live Technology'. Meaning that the traditional IT department is dead but companies are very much focused on leveraging technology to help drive operational efficiencies and to gain a competitive edge. 

Mark Polansky: The CIO must be capable of recommending innovative ideas to be evaluated and tested in pilot programs... ideas that can  deliver operational or competitive improvements to the business. A CIO might say to a business or functional leader, 'If we did this, would it make your life easier or better?' Also, spending time with revenue-generating colleagues can typically help CIOs observe and perceive ideas and suggestions for technology-enabled and technology-driven business opportunities to be explored.

Should CIOs play a more proactive role in communicating these opportunities to the CEO and the executive team?

MP: I'm taking your question literally, and I think it's important to say that if I'm a CIO and I take a value-generating idea to my CEO, and by doing so I go around my revenue-generating colleague, that's simply bad form. CIOs should bring opportunities to the attention of the appropriate business leader in a highly collaborative manner. Of course the CIO should be proactive, engage the right people with their innovative proposals inspirations, and present these collaboratively. 

SB: Absolutely. These days it's probably the single most important contribution they can make that demonstrates how they're delivering value beyond operating efficiency. Look at what AWS is doing as a model.

What are some ways in which the CIO can help foster a culture of customer centricity?

SB: If the company wants to be externally customer focused, they need to develop a top-tier internal customer focus. Drawing from what IT teams do to delight employees and users, we can apply the same philosophies to delighting external customers. If you make it easier for people to do their jobs, they'll make it easier for customers to do business with the company.

MP: I like to see CIOs proactively and literally get out and speak with their company's customers, hand-in-hand with either or both a business leader and a marketing leader. In this way CIOs will discern what the customer is doing and thinking. And it gives CIOs the opportunity to observe and discuss customers and their processes in real-time along with their colleagues, and even solicit customers' reactions to some innovative ideas.

To learn more about other thought leaders who will be speaking at the upcoming 2018 Boston CIO Executive Leadership Summit and to register for the event, click here