At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it cannot be overstated how crucial technology has become to driving business success. As a result, CIOs play a pivotal role in shaping the strategic direction of organisations. As the custodian of technology in the organization, the CIO has a unique perspective on the entire organisation, including its operations, customers, and competition. This perspective enables the CIO to identify opportunities to leverage technology to achieve business objectives and mitigate risks associated with technology investments.
However, many CEOs fail to fully leverage the unique perspective that CIOs can provide. They only engage with them when discussing technology, resulting in a transactional relationship that misses out on valuable insights. To build a successful partnership, CEOs must recognize the importance of engaging CIOs in strategic discussions. This requires fostering a collaborative environment, empowering the CIO, developing a shared language, and regularly assessing technology investments. Here are five recommendations to help CEOs foster a more meaningful relationship with CIOs.
Engage the CIO in Strategic Discussions
When we started publishing CIO Africa over 14 years ago, most CIOs, whom we could count in one hand, came from a technical background. They were only interested in technology. But this has changed over the years and a lot of CIOs have taken an interest in business studies and strategy. In fact, we have seen some CIOs taking over as Chief Operating Officers managing all aspects of operations in a business including technology.
CEOs should, therefore, engage their CIO in strategic discussions from the outset, involving them in the development of the company’s business plan. This approach ensures that the CIO’s insights are integrated into the company’s strategic decision-making, and technology investments align with business objectives. To implement this recommendation, CEOs should hold regular strategy sessions that include the CIO and other C-Suite executives. By involving the CIO early in the planning process, CEOs can tap into their expertise to gain a better understanding of the company’s technology needs and identify opportunities to leverage technology to achieve business goals.
Foster a Collaborative Environment
CEOs should foster a collaborative environment that encourages open communication and cross-functional collaboration. This approach ensures that the CIO has a voice in discussions beyond technology and can contribute to the company’s overall strategic direction. To achieve this, CEOs should create a culture that values input from all members of the leadership team, regardless of their area of expertise. Unlike their marketing colleagues, most CIOs are less vocal and may need a bit of a nudge and encouragement to open up and contribute effectively. By creating an environment where all voices are heard, CEOs can tap into the collective knowledge and expertise of their team to make more informed decisions.
Empower the CIO
CEOs should empower their CIO by giving them the resources and authority to make strategic decisions related to technology investments. This approach ensures that the CIO can act as a true partner to the CEO and provide recommendations that align with business objectives. To implement this recommendation, CEOs should provide the CIO with the budget, staffing, and decision-making authority necessary to execute the company’s technology strategy. Budget has been one of the Achilles heels for most CIOs who are sometimes unable to justify why it is critical to make certain investments. Underbudgeted IT projects never meet expectations. By empowering the CIO, CEOs can leverage their unique perspective on the business to make more informed decisions.
Develop a Shared Language
CEOs and CIOs should establish a shared language that facilitates communication and ensures that technology investments are aligned with business objectives. This approach involves developing a common understanding of key business metrics, such as customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and market share, and how technology investments can impact these metrics. By developing a shared language, CEOs and CIOs can communicate more effectively, which leads to better decision-making.
Regularly Assess Technology Investments
CEOs and CIOs should regularly assess technology investments to ensure that they are aligned with business objectives and delivering the expected ROI. This approach involves regularly reviewing technology investments to identify areas where improvements can be made, and where investments should be increased or reduced. By regularly assessing technology investments, CEOs and CIOs can stay ahead of changes in the market and ensure that technology continues to drive business success.
The CEO-CIO relationship is a critical partnership for business success in today’s technology-driven world. CEOs who make the effort to engage with their CIOs in strategic discussions and view them as strategic partner, rather than a transactional one, will benefit from the CIO’s unique perspective on the organization’s technology and operations.
To make this partnership a success, CEOs should adopt a collaborative approach that empowers the CIO to contribute to the company’s strategic direction. This involves developing a shared language, fostering a culture of innovation, and regularly assessing technology investments to ensure they align with business objectives.