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The Six Key Roles for CIOs to Succeed

Today's business environment integrates information technology in products, services, and supporting business processes. The CIO is no longer the executive managing a cost center comprised of servers, switches, and routers. He or she is a business executive who must collaborate with C-Level business peers to achieve business outcome. No longer will technology expertise be the prevailing success criteria. CIOs must take on new roles. Following are six that are critical to achieving success in today's dynamic and global marketplace.

1. CIOs must learn how to think like an Entrepreneur.   They need to focus on driving revenue and reducing cost in innovative ways.

 Srini Surapaneni is senior vice president of business systems and information at Western Union. Speed is important. He has to think of ways to test new products quickly.   Srini uses the cloud to test new technology solutions to solve business problems. This way he can find out very quickly what works and what doesn't without disrupting his infrastructure.

2. They have to facilitate relationships as a Connector between 3rd parties and foster collaborations that are a win/win for everyone.

To connect vendors into strategic partners Greg Fittinghoff of HBO focuses on a select group of vendors who are expert in their field. He works with them to help them better understand the business and strategic needs of HBO. The vendors then work on solving a specific HBO business challenge. Together with strategic vendors the team co-develops a future road map of business solutions.

3. In today's global marketplace the corporate headquarters is not the center of the universe so CIOs must and travel and communicate to all business units, regardless of location, and act as a Global Talent Scout so that executives understand the local cultures, environment, and issues.

Dave Weick is the CIO of McDonalds. He views managing talent as a critical role for the CIO. Although hiring is done locally CIOs need to understand how to manage global talent and who and when to move into different roles not only locally but also globally.

4. With the advent of new technologies developing every day and the complexities of each the CIO must also be a Futurist where projecting technology trends and understanding the potential   issues and challenges are important elements for enabling success.

Managing today's   environment how it enables business value   is a primary focus of every CIO. But what about the future. Many CIOs are  predicting that mobile technology is a significant   technology trend of the future and IT organizations need to adapts to rely on mobile technology as a key enabler of communication within the business environment.   At Home Box Office Greg  Fittinghoff,  SVP of IT, Corporate Systems & Infrastructure, believes that   in the future that about a third of all personnel  will  work more from a virtual environment versus  a company office location.

5.   It used to be about meeting SLA (Service Level Agreements). But today the successful CIO needs to be the Master of Business Metrics where one can demonstrate how IT contributes to business value.

Helen Cousins is CIO of Lincoln Trust. She believes that the compensation model for CIOs will parallel the models used for business executives . To help support the role that IT plays in enabling business success Helen communicates to the business how IT improves the business in terms of new products, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.

6.   CIOs learned that the Economy is the Wild Card as a result of the economic turmoil and subsequent recession in 2008 They had to figure out a way to successfully support business needs in changing times. This ability to be creative and agile enables the CIO and the IT organization to be responsive to changing business needs.

As demonstrated by the recent economic crisis CIOs need to be responsive to changing business needs. The economy can have devastating   effects on the business and every executive, especially the CIO, need to figure out how to overcome market changes and learn how to capitalize on them. Tim Theriault is CIO of Walgreens. He believes that CIOs need to build strong relationships with the CEO and better understand his vision and goals. Anticipating the needs to the CEO and the business will provide the CIO more leverage and trust as a strategic partner in creating and sustaining business value.

These six roles represent the core attributes of a successful CIO.   The examples for each of the six roles have been summarized from a terrific article written by Kim's Nash's of CIO magazine.   Please read the full article to get a much more in depth description of these roles.

Phil Weinzimer is president of Strategere Consulting working with clients to develop business and IT strategies that focus on achieving business outcomes. Previously Mr. Weinzimer was Managing Principal-Professional Services for IT Business Management at BMC Software. He has also held Managing Principal positions in the Professional Services organizations for ITM Software, CAI, and Sapient.

Mr. Weinzimer has written a book concerning customer value entitled “Getting IT Right: Creating Customer Value for Market Leadership” and has a forthcoming book, “The Strategic CIO: Creating Customer Value, Increasing Revenue, Enhancing Shareholder Wealth”, will be available in 2013.

Mr. Weinzimer can be contacted at

About Phil Weinzimer

Author and president of Strategere Consulting working with clients to develop business and IT strategies that focus on achieving business outcomes.

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