How CIOs Become Trusted Allies

October 20, 2016

Contributor: Kasey Panetta

A five step roadmap to getting a seat at the C-suite table.

Only 23% of CIOs are considered trusted allies to their CEOs, according to the 2016 CIO Agenda. In other words, only a quarter of CIOs are involved in the strategic decisions being made about the future of the company.

Alvaro Mello describes five ways to become a trusted ally at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

“A trusted ally is more of a business partner who happens to have IT with him or her, as well,” said Alvaro Mello, research vice president at Gartner, during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  

CIOs who are classified as trusted allies are perceived as business leaders and C-suite peers in charge of IT. Generally, the trusted ally has a mixture of business and IT background and 52% report directly to the CEO. They are more likely to be new to an organization, since it is difficult to evolve from a transactional or partner CIO to a trusted ally within the same business.

Generally, trusted allies are more comfortable experimenting with startups and small-medium businesses for talent and are more likely to have bimodal strategies.

Read related article: CIOs Gain C-Suite Influence

CIOs who act as trusted allies to their CEOs differ from Partner and Transactional CIOs

How can CIOs move into this role? Mr. Mello offered five key steps.

  1. Craft and Communicate Your Unique, Personal Message
    If CIOs gain a seat at the C-suite table, it needs to be about more than just presenting results or a budget. “Your peers will look to you and they will expect insight,” said Mr. Mello. Take a look at innovations in the industry, what competitors are doing, and the definition of success for new business models. Extract lessons from bimodal experiments. Use that data and information to craft a message and share the insight into the future of the industry with your peers.
  2. Measure and Communicate Your Business Impact
    Create new metrics for how to measure success as a trusted ally. These will be very different from traditional IT metrics. For example, innovation ratio speaks to how many Mode 2 experimentations and initiatives are needed to find one that makes an impact on the bottom line for the company.
  3. Invest Time and Attention in Your Relationships With Peers
    Invest in triad relationships. Instead of just inviting the CMO or the CEO to lunch, invite both. A third player will allow the group to focus on content versus being derailed by personalities. Try to have an honest conversation and connect personal values to each person. After the meeting, distribute links to articles regarding the conversation or find ways to continue the conversation.
  4. Tap Into Wider Resource Pools Through Influence and Orchestration
    While some CIOs only see resources within IT, trusted allies look outside the business unit and even the business. They see vendors as a source of talent and don’t limit themselves to skills within the organization. Smaller companies can be a good way to complement existing talent with new skill sets.
  5. Adapt Your Leadership Style to Handle Complexity and Uncertainty
    Most CIOs have a command and control approach to leadership. But trusted allies generally fall into visionary leader or coach leader categories. The visionary leaders are focused on communicating with everyone and getting people on board with their mission. Coach leaders are focused on developing competencies of peers or direct reports. It’s key to adjust leadership styles because the command and control style does not scale. Trusted allies should focus on narratives and fluid concepts, and need teams on board to help facilitate this style of leadership.

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