Know-how skilled to small business chief: The evolution of the CIO

Main info officers are normally experts in technologies, but enterprise approach management distinguishes trailblazers from the relaxation of the pack.

Today’s IT leaders need to strike the proper balance amongst technology and business enterprise approach, a panel of professionals stated at a modern webinar hosted by the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Lots of CIOs are far more at ease with technical innovation than with formulating small business method, embracing earnings-era duties, functioning with boards of directors, or driving transform management. But these are all now crucial areas of the purpose.

Research displays the evolution of the CIO from engineering expert to organization company leader. According to’s 2023 Condition of the CIO survey, many CIOs are now actively playing a strategic management position. Almost 3-quarters (71%) of respondents said they assume to actively travel business enterprise innovation, establish and refine business strategy, and identify opportunities for competitive differentiation over the future three several years. The study also observed that CEOs imagine CIOs should prioritize strengthening IT and organization collaboration, and CIOs’ most vital target is driving business innovation.

“At the close of the working day, IT is the business and the company is IT,” mentioned panel moderator Shamim Mohammad, govt vice president and chief details and technology officer at CarMax. “They are all jointly, and finally there have to have to be popular objectives.”

Yet it can be hard for CIOs to navigate the changeover from a engineering emphasis to a broader small business function. The panelists offered the pursuing assistance.

1. Anchor almost everything in enterprise price.

Tech leaders have a inclination to communicate about know-how when they should truly frame options in the context of how they produce for the enterprise. As well many conversations solid IT assignments as expense-chopping initiatives mainly because these types of arguments are typically persuasive. Nonetheless IT leaders need to go further more and floor conversations about technology with senior leaders in terms they fully grasp — anchored in company price and supported by return-on-investment decision metrics.


In a 2022 survey, 71% of respondents explained they count on CIOs to generate enterprise innovation and acquire enterprise approach.

“We known as it the three-finger punch,” mentioned George Corbin, an government who has led innovation and company transformation at key corporations like Mars Inc. and Marriott Intercontinental, describing his practices for presenting IT proposals to top management. “We would in essence occur in and say, ‘Here are three details you require to know: We’re getting rid of share among the most significant customer section we’re shedding share to new intermediaries, which price us 10x for each transaction and our loyalty is dropping.’ We established the tone, showing we are anchored on crucial small business demands and how a electronic proposal solves for it.”

2. Use storytelling and interaction abilities.  

A recitation of specifics, especially extremely technical ones, will not get the attention of the C-suite — or the broader company, for that issue. CIOs need to establish a powerful narrative that ties the know-how street map to business tactic, which includes how it addresses certain suffering points or developments crucial income plans. Corbin stated he once experienced issues producing a circumstance for an initiative, even even though he was armed with a 160-slide presentation deck. By translating the exact same argument into a 4-minute movie depicting how the initiative would improve the customer knowledge, he was ready to split by way of and get the govt crew on board.

Particularly throughout the pandemic, “CIOs experienced to broaden their skills to communicate and hook up with people,” reported Maryfran Johnson, the host of’s CIO Management Are living video clip present and podcast. “And the way you hook up with folks is often as a result of stories.”

3. Be visible and inspire.

CIOs require to just take every possibility to get out and talk the IT vision, whether or not it is presenting at city halls or taking part in board conferences. Portray a vivid vision of the technologies system not only drives acquire-in but also will help recruit champions throughout the organization who will be essential to success.

On a individual entrance, CIOs need to actively promote their possess brand, together with on social media sites like LinkedIn. “Don’t believe of LinkedIn as a resume website page but alternatively as a marketing for your particular merchandise,” Corbin claimed. “What is the price prop that you deliver? That is what your LinkedIn profile really should convey.”

Johnson agreed. “For greater or worse, [LinkedIn] is our skilled network in technologies,” she mentioned. “That’s in which you want to commence connecting with other CIOs.”

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She advised folks to consider a shut search at their social media profiles, due to the fact other men and women will. “Every CIO I know would like their firm to be a magnet for engineering expertise,” she reported. “Where is tech expertise going to go and verify you out as a manager and see how generally you are putting up? See what persons are declaring about the things that you are posting about your team and what they are executing, the initiatives you’re doing the job on.”

4. Nurture trusted interactions with C-suite peers.  

An knowing of the business and potent interaction expertise are the foundation on which CIOs can develop bridges to govt staff counterparts and other regions of the company. When Mohammad came onboard at CarMax, he did not get started pitching major transformation or IT initiatives. Alternatively, he expended time finding to know colleagues and partners to recognize what their agony factors were being and what issues the business faced. This permitted him to zero in on spots with the most company impression. He also developed alliances with senior executives these types of as the main marketing officer and main operating officer, which acquired him immediate trustworthiness with the rest of the leadership staff. 

“Anything we did came across as a corporation initiative, not a technological know-how initiative, advertising method, or an functions initiative,” Mohammad mentioned. “It commenced out with constructing reliable interactions, acquiring mutual belief, and concentrating on widespread issues that necessary to be prevail over for the enterprise.”

Browse up coming: Who owns digital innovation? Who cares?