future-enterprise-goals-cropped-timFor CIOs who are attempting to anticipate what lies ahead for their companies and their industries, these challenges extend well beyond trying to serve as a soothsayer. As Tim Crawford sees it, CIOs must first tackle the pragmatic challenges associated with helping the enterprise achieve its future state goals.

HMG Strategy recently spoke with Crawford, a former CIO and current CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA, for his insights on the topic. Crawford is also an Advisory Board member and a speaker for HMG Strategy’s upcoming 2019 Silicon Valley CIO Executive Leadership Summit taking place on August 29 in Menlo Park.

HMG Strategy: As CIOs strive to anticipate what lies ahead for their company or their industry, what are the practical challenges they face in trying to address these issues for the enterprise?

Tim Crawford: The CIO needs to look at the company from a business perspective and not look at the company through a technology lens. As part of that, they need to be careful about becoming siloed around what their industry has done. This is where inertia comes into play - this is the way our company has always done things, this is how our industry has always done things, we’re regulated because we’re in healthcare, financial services, etc. The best ideas come from leaders outside of their industries because it offers a fresh perspective. 

Looking at it from a business perspective, it’s about having fresh eyes to drive business change and wise eyes based on a CIO’s experiences, too.

There’s a continuum of conversation that needs to happen. Including how the CIO looks at their role in the broader C-suite. The CIO needs to be in lock step with the CEO. 

What the CIO needs to do is to think as the CEO of the company. What that means is that you’re thinking in business terms for strategy, you’re thinking across the organization like the CEO. 

What are some ways that a CIO can work with the CEO and the executive team to address the road ahead?

TC: First, the CIO must put themselves in the shoes of the CEO and determine where the appropriate placements of technology can make a difference. The conversations with the CEO and executive team must be in business terms the C-suite can relate to. What matters is the business outcome that results.

The CIO of today is a business leader first who happens to have responsibility for technology and not the other way around. And a good litmus test of whether the CIO is focused on the right things is whether the C-suite is focusing on the same issues. That becomes a good barometer of the CIO’s alignment. 

Can you offer recommendations on connecting the dots between the IT strategy and the business strategy? 

TC: How do you take that business strategy and help folks on the IT staff understand what they’re doing and how it fits into the organizational goals? I do think it’s important that you connect the dots. Connecting the dots between the current state and the future state. 

You have to help people on the IT staff understand that the apps they’re building or the infrastructure they’re supporting ties to a particular business outcome. It helps them to align with the business outcomes and not focus on the technology direction. We tend to get attracted to the bright shiny object - what’s new and exciting and sexy and fresh and has a new technology bent to it. But what we forget is how it’s going to help address business outcomes. If it’s not focused on business outcomes, then we should apply a higher degree of scrutiny. 

Second, it helps to be focused on what’s important for the company and it gives people a purpose. For a long time, IT people feel like they’re off in a closet, off to the side from the rest of the company. I worked in an organization where the IT team was in a different building apart from the rest of the corporate campus and no one visited us, and we didn’t get to connect with other people in the organization. This creates a culture of separation. By contrast, giving people a sense of purpose helps them to understand their true value.

Other thoughts?

TC: It’s important for us to look in counterintuitive ways. Don’t just look at what other companies in your industry are doing. It’s important to figure out how to have an open mind and be open to different ideas. There’s strength in diversity and how companies can succeed through diversity of thought. Having differences in thought is OK. It also starts to counterbalance a core challenge in IT – the echo chamber. We tend to bring people into IT who think like us but that doesn’t help the company to move forward. 

To learn more about the Silicon Valley CIO Executive Leadership Summit and to register for the event, click here