November 30, 2023


You are Your Only Limit

Technological innovation specialist to business enterprise chief: The evolution of the CIO

5 min read

Chief facts officers are usually gurus in technological innovation, but business approach management distinguishes trailblazers from the rest of the pack.

Today’s IT leaders want to strike the appropriate stability among engineering and company tactic, a panel of gurus stated at a modern webinar hosted by the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. A lot of CIOs are much more comfortable with technical innovation than with formulating business method, embracing earnings-era responsibilities, working with boards of administrators, or driving adjust administration. But these are all now essential components of the part.

Investigate demonstrates the evolution of the CIO from technology expert to organization business chief. In accordance to’s 2023 State of the CIO survey, lots of CIOs are previously participating in a strategic management role. Almost three-quarters (71%) of respondents claimed they be expecting to actively drive company innovation, create and refine business strategy, and determine opportunities for competitive differentiation in excess of the subsequent a few years. The study also discovered that CEOs feel CIOs should really prioritize strengthening IT and enterprise collaboration, and CIOs’ most significant emphasis is driving small business innovation.

“At the finish of the working day, IT is the business and the business is IT,” stated panel moderator Shamim Mohammad, executive vice president and chief facts and technological know-how officer at CarMax. “They are all together, and in the long run there will need to be popular aims.”

But it can be hard for CIOs to navigate the changeover from a technology target to a broader small business job. The panelists made available the pursuing advice.

1. Anchor every little thing in business value.

Tech leaders have a inclination to converse about technology when they ought to truly body remedies in the context of how they deliver for the business enterprise. Too many discussions forged IT jobs as value-chopping initiatives because these types of arguments are frequently persuasive. Still IT leaders require to go even more and floor discussions about technologies with senior leaders in conditions they fully grasp — anchored in organization value and supported by return-on-financial commitment metrics.


In a 2022 survey, 71% of respondents reported they assume CIOs to generate business innovation and establish company tactic.

“We called it the 3-finger punch,” reported George Corbin, an govt who has led innovation and organization transformation at main corporations like Mars Inc. and Marriott Global, describing his techniques for presenting IT proposals to best management. “We would essentially occur in and say, ‘Here are 3 facts you want to know: We’re dropping share among the most significant shopper segment we’re losing share to new intermediaries, which price us 10x per transaction and our loyalty is dropping.’ We established the tone, showing we are anchored on essential business enterprise needs and how a electronic proposal solves for it.”

2. Use storytelling and communication competencies.  

A recitation of specifics, primarily very complex ones, won’t grab the focus of the C-suite — or the broader business, for that issue. CIOs need to build a compelling narrative that ties the technological innovation road map to company method, such as how it addresses specific pain points or developments key profits ambitions. Corbin claimed he the moment had difficulties generating a scenario for an initiative, even nevertheless he was armed with a 160-slide presentation deck. By translating the exact same argument into a four-moment video clip depicting how the initiative would boost the purchaser expertise, he was in a position to break via and get the government group on board.

Particularly through the pandemic, “CIOs had to broaden their talents to communicate and link with individuals,” mentioned Maryfran Johnson, the host of’s CIO Management Are living video clip present and podcast. “And the way you join with people today is frequently through tales.”

3. Be obvious and inspire.

CIOs need to have to take just about every possibility to get out and converse the IT eyesight, irrespective of whether it’s presenting at town halls or taking part in board conferences. Portray a vivid eyesight of the technology system not only drives invest in-in but also helps recruit champions across the corporation who will be vital to achievements.

On a particular front, CIOs should actively advertise their personal model, such as on social media websites like LinkedIn. “Don’t feel of LinkedIn as a resume web site but instead as a marketing for your private item,” Corbin mentioned. “What is the benefit prop that you deliver? Which is what your LinkedIn profile should really convey.”

Johnson agreed. “For greater or worse, [LinkedIn] is our skilled community in technology,” she claimed. “That’s the place you want to get started connecting with other CIOs.”

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She recommended individuals to take a near search at their social media profiles, since other people will. “Every CIO I know would like their organization to be a magnet for technologies talent,” she reported. “Where is tech expertise heading to go and check out you out as a boss and see how normally you’re putting up? See what men and women are declaring about the things that you’re submitting about your staff members and what they’re executing, the tasks you’re operating on.”

4. Nurture dependable associations with C-suite friends.  

An understanding of the company and solid communication techniques are the foundation on which CIOs can establish bridges to govt team counterparts and other parts of the enterprise. When Mohammad came onboard at CarMax, he didn’t start off pitching major transformation or IT tasks. Somewhat, he spent time receiving to know colleagues and companions to understand what their ache details ended up and what worries the business confronted. This authorized him to zero in on areas with the most organization impact. He also produced alliances with senior executives these kinds of as the main advertising and marketing officer and chief operating officer, which attained him instant trustworthiness with the relaxation of the management staff. 

“Anything we did arrived throughout as a enterprise initiative, not a technological innovation initiative, internet marketing application, or an functions initiative,” Mohammad stated. “It started out out with setting up solid associations, obtaining mutual belief, and focusing on typical problems that necessary to be triumph over for the small business.”

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