CIOs Gain C-Suite Influence

CIOs’ relationships with CEOs are becoming more strategic as they build their platforms for digital leadership.

Innovate or perish.

PostNord, a 400-year-old state-owned company in the Nordic region with roots in mail delivery, took this imperative as part of its mission as customers worldwide shifted to digital communication alternatives.

Reflecting a growing trend, the role of PostNord’s CIO, Kenneth Verlage, has evolved beyond the traditional CIO role to include digital strategy and innovation. He’s led the design of a transformational business development application programming interface (API) platform, along with a new IT organization with greater capacity and better processes.

As a CIO, to help your enterprise survive and ultimately thrive in a digital business world, says Lee Weldon, managing vice president at Gartner, you need to “Step up to the plate in digital business leadership, recognize this as a team sport, and bring the business leadership and the IT team with you.”

CIOs Gain C-Suite Influence

CIOs report growing influence in the C-suite

In a nutshell, Weldon’s advice to CIOs is “Partner or perish.”

In 2015, CIOs reported that their relationships with CEOs were becoming less transactional and more strategic: 23% believe they are trusted allies (the highest level of CEO/CIO alignment) compared with 19% in 2014, and 50% are CEO partners compared with 45% in 2014. Only 25% of CIOs believe that their relationship with the CEO is transactional – down from 33% in 2014. This level of partnership will continue to rise in 2016, as the majority of CIOs (78%) reported that they expect their influence to continue to increase with CEOs.

How to build your digital leadership platform

PostNord’s CIO sees his role as equally divided between “CIO and IT,” and “business development,” with the latter becoming more prominent in the future. His goal is to transform IT from a back-office function to a source of innovation providing future revenue streams, as he did with the API implementation.

Leadership that extends to the C-suite is a platform that CIOs can build on, like any other asset, to drive organizational and personal success. In fact, nearly 40% of CIOs reported that they are responsible for digital transformation in their enterprises and 34% of CIOs are responsible for innovation. Taking on additional responsibilities like these are an important step in establishing a digital leadership role in the C-suite.

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Think about:

  • How much digital leadership am I willing to take on?
  • Do I want to be an implementer of the IT aspects of digital initiatives, or a leader of entire initiatives?
  • Do I want to be a leader of digital strategy? Digital transformation? Innovation?
  • How much risk am I willing to take on personally?

Action items to consider in 2016:

  • Drive clarity regarding the level and nature of your enterprise’s digital opportunities and appetite for needed change.
  • Extend your leadership focus beyond the boundaries of the business.
  • Develop and commit to a self-development plan to digital business success. Note: “Trusted ally” CIOs spend an average of 10 days per year on personal development.

Gartner clients can read more in the report Building the Digital Platform: The 2016 CIO Agenda by Dave Aron, Lee Weldon and Graham Waller.

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