“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”
– Jeff Daly
If we google the subject, I’m sure we’ll find hundreds of articles about how the CIO should manage his relationship and communication with his C-Level peers. Easily we would come to a conclusion that the typical CIO has a problem in how he relation himself with his peers.
In my opinion I prefer to see this, as a non-updated discussion, which is related with how the companies foresees the IT Unit inside their organizations. Most of the companies still sees their IT as a supportive area for their business, which for me is totally wrong now-a-days.
Let me put the question this way: What is the percentage of companies that currently do their business without their IT Unit? Or how can we separate the IT from the business when their customers basically see the company through their e-commerce platforms or their Internet banking services? And this are only examples.
If we want to be more radical we might say that the biggest companies on the different sectors from financial services, to retail or mass consumer markets are now facing new kind of competition from companies that started their business with the assumption that the IT was part of their core activities.
It’s time for the other C-Levels to understand that the CIO’s are part of the game and that their role is to much important to be ignored or not understandable. Also it’s time for the CIO’s to assume their responsibility to understand the business of the companies where they are included.
Being the right CIO is not about being the best technical resource, instead it’s about understanding the business and the requirements that it has in order to create the right competitive advantages trough the IT initiatives. It’s about leadership and human resources, it’s about financial management and also marketing management.
The modern CIO must assume the importance of his role of enabling the board level to become digitally literate and helping them to understand how technology is important in gaining competitive advantage.
The real evidence that the organizations have a huge gap about the CIO that they need to have and the one that they have, is regarding the definitions of there IS Strategy and what they should do to support their business and create competitive Advantages. What I mean with this, and I’m sure you all agree, is that most of those strategies are defined or lead by external consultants and not by the internal IS Team or the CIO. That means that one of the following things is happening, and I believe both are connected: The other C-Levels don’t trust on the CIO to do this work or the CIO and his team doesn’t know enough about the business of their organization or about the sector where they operate. I would assume that is a mix of both and a lack of communication between both parts.
I know that this might sound a little dishonest but the modern CIO should know about all the areas inside the company, because taking bad decision in the IT can impact very negatively the business of a company and consequently his image regarding to the other C-Levels.
From another perspective and working as an advantage to the CIO, he is, in my opinion, the most adaptable and flexible member of the C-Level structure. In order to support my assumption let’s just think which area is the one that is in a recurrent changing and evolving. If the CIOs were not able to adapt to this constantly change they will die doing their job. This should work as a trigger for the CEO to assume that the CIOs must report directly to him and not to another board member.
But like I started this article, with a quote that means a lot for me, I think the problem exists but from both parts, meaning the CIO is not assuming his role on the organization and what I mean with this is that, like in all situations to gain the respect and to be listen I think the CIO must understand the best way to communicate and that depends a lot on his levels of confidence. For that it’s crucial that the CIO stops living by technological motivations and starts be more close to the business. Most important I think that, also there is a need for the other C-Levels to start looking to the CIO as a Key member from the board level, because of the importance that the IT is taken to the business. They should assume that they also have to learn how to communicate with him, and by learn I mean start by listen the CIO not as support member but as a decision maker who can make the difference today and tomorrow.
I would say finally that in order to tune the correct mode of communication the CIO needs to risk and assume that they are now part of the business with all the consequences that this has to them and the other C-Levels.
Call me crazy but I can bet that in the near future most of the CEO of big organizations will be past CIO’s and that means that they had changed in the way they know the business of their organizations but also means that Business and IT cannot be disassociated.
Pedro Gomes Santos (CEO Hundred Group)