November 13, 2018
November 13, 2018
Contributor: Laurence Goasduff
CIOs must establish a strategic partnership with their CEO by linking conversations to business outcomes, metrics, benefits and real choices.
You may think your role has been sidelined. Instead of acting as a strategic partner to the CEO, you're left out of the strategic planning meeting. Picture the scene: The company’s strategic planning session starts in 15 minutes, but as CIO, you still haven't received a meeting invitation. Instead, you see the chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chief security officer, chief marketing officer and chief human resources officer enter the meeting room and shut the door behind them.
Consider this simple explanation: Often many CIOs have a technology or engineering background, whereas CEOs generally come from a sales background. This means they often speak, in effect, different languages.
Most CIOs seek approval, rather than inviting their CEOs to participate in the IT decision-making process. This can lead CEOs to view the IT department as a service provider, rather than as a strategic business partner. This, in turn, can lead to reduced IT budget and a lack of CIO involvement in the making of decisions that affect business outcomes.
“Whether the CEO views IT as service provider or strategic business partner often comes down to the CIO’s ability to engage the CEO in conversations that offer real choices and demonstrate understanding of the overall enterprise strategy,” says Leigh McMullen, Research Vice President at Gartner. “The conversation the CIO has with the CEO should therefore include how to improve profit margin and gain competitive advantage.”
Digitalization provides an opportunity for CIOs to change their role from approval seeker to a contributor with a seat at the strategy table. It has given them the impetus to become strategic partners to CEOs. Digital disruption has placed technology at the heart of most business discussions, and IT is now regarded by CEOs as an important strategic asset and a means by which they can innovate.
“This changed mindset offers the opportunity for the CIO to engage in challenging conversations with their CEO. For example, the CEO of a major global bank expressed concern that the bank was getting too big, and that it was losing the local market connections of the regional banks it was buying. While this isn’t a problem a CIO can do anything about directly, framing technology solutions in the context of a business problem will resonate strongly,” says McMullen.
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Whether CIOs are trying to guide future investment choices, increase IT’s credibility and business value, or play a greater role in defining corporate strategy and business outcomes, the ability to have engaging conversations with their CEO is critical.
Start by identifying what’s important to your CEO. Then:
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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
How to Have an Engaging Conversation With Your CEO
*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.