Thanks to their unique view across the enterprise, CIOs play a critical role in helping to reimagine and reinvent the business. These capabilities haven't gone unnoticed by boards of directors - in fact, 70% of boards expect their CIO to be an innovative force and a creative disruptor, according to a study by BT Global Services and Vanson Bourne.
"CIOs have a great vantage point from which they're able to see all of the business and offer suggestions to fellow business leaders," said Renee Arrington, Senior Vice President, Pearson Partners International, Inc. "The question is whether they have the strategic skillsets to identify and then clearly articulate those opportunities."
Arrington is one of several search executives who will be speaking at HMG Strategy's upcoming 2018 Philadelphia CIO Executive Leadership Summit, taking place on November 8 at Hilton Philadelphia at Penn's Landing.
As Arrington and other speakers participating at the Philadelphia summit point out, there are a number of competencies and characteristics that CIOs offer in helping their organizations to drive business transformation.
"The CIO needs to break down the silos and think across the company in terms of functions, markets, and customers," said Hugo Fueglein, Managing Director, Diversified Search. "It's a horizontal thinking process versus a vertical thinking process. Even in the IT organization itself in terms of using AI and machine learning for digital transformation, CIOs have to be thinking about how to access information both inside and out in a very holistic way."
Identifying and communicating opportunities for transforming the business also requires CIOs who are comfortable working with the executive team in formulating strategy. "Every IT executive search I've been involved with over the past five years has required a candidate who can have a seat at the table and work with the leadership team to apply technology to the strategy of the business," said John Fidler, Managing Director, Retained Search, Fidato Partners.
One of the ways that longstanding CIOs can demonstrate the value they're delivering to the business is by creating a marketing plan which validates the business services the IT organization is delivering and the results that are being achieved, said Candida Seasock, Founder and President, CTS Associates, LLC, which serves as strategic advisors to CEOs and growth companies.
"The CIO of today and tomorrow should be focused on meeting both internal business needs and external customer needs," said Seasock.
Some industry insiders believe CIOs need to become more proactive in communicating business opportunities to the CEO and the executive team than they had been in the past.
"That's one of the attributes of a very good contemporary CIO," said Fueglein. "When we look for CIOs, we look for someone who is passionate about articulating effectively across any audience. This is where the use of data and analytics has to be orchestrated well to identify areas of opportunity."
"Who the CIO shares these opportunities with also depends upon the structure of the company," adds Fidler. "Whether it be to a member of the corporate executive team or a leader within a business unit, the CIO needs to be comfortable communicating opportunities as they present themselves."
Which executives the CIO communicates business opportunities to also depends upon the personalities and receptivity of the individuals involves, notes Arrington.
"Both of these factors play a role in communicating ideas and when to communicate," said Arrington. "You can share a ton of ideas but the person who's receiving that information has to be prepared to hear it. You've got to recognize when the timing is right."
Of course, reporting relationships are also key in making an impact. "The CIO should be reporting to the CEO or the COO, depending on the size of the organization," said Seasock. "If they report to the CFO, the CIO likely won't have a voice at the table in terms of supporting the business. If they report to the CFO, it becomes a cost conversation, not a value conversation."
To learn more about the 2018 Philadelphia CIO Executive Leadership Summit and the future path for technology executives, click here.