Information technology is more ubiquitous in the products and services today than ever before. As consumers we see it every day when we use our phones, shop for clothes, and even when we drive our automobiles. Information technology is everywhere. CEOs realize that the person leading the Information Technology organization needs to have business savvy in addition to technical experience. The Chief Information Officers (CIOs) needs to understand the business, competitive market and leverage technology appropriately. They need to be strategic in the way they think, lead, and manage personnel. The new Strategic CIO encourages both business and IT personnel to work together in collaborative teams to create and provide sustainable customer value, increase operating margins, and enhance shareholder wealth. Let’s look at an example of a strategic CIO: The president and CEO of a major insurance company was recruiting for a CIO who possessed business acumen in addition to technical competence to work with the executive team to enable the anticipated rapid growth the company anticipated. The Insurance company provides automobile, home, and life insurance products to 2.2 million automobile or homeowners’ policies in force in 23 states. With sales of 2 billion dollar plus, and rapidly growing, the CEO recognized that information technology was a key to the future success of the company. She was looking for a CIO who possessed business acumen in addition to technical competence to work with the executive team to enable the anticipated rapid growth the company anticipated. In 2011 she hired a seasoned Chief Information Officer reporting to her. The CIO had the right experience. John, the new CIO, was co-founder of a software company , general manager of a product suite that managed the business of IT, and was also chief information officer and vice president of information services for major chip manufacturer located in California. John also held various IT leadership and management positions within Sun Microsystems and Cullinet Software. John also held JD degree from Suffolk University in Boston and a BS in computer science from Boston College. With a successful track record in information technology and business coupled with a law degree John was the perfect candidate for the CIO position. John spent his first 90 days on the job meeting with the leaders of the Marketing, Sales, and Financial organizations to understand the business and the competitive marketplace. He then revisited with each VP to identify the key information needs required by the Insurance to achieve the growth the executive team projected. In parallel to these two activities John began an intense review of his IT staff to determine if they had the necessary competencies and skills to engage with the business to effectively partner and develop business solutions to grow the company. As John engaged with business leaders he realized that customer service was a core competency of the insurance company and that there were some current deficiencies in the claims processing systems that impacted customer satisfaction. Partnering with the Vice-Presidents of Marketing and Sales this collaborative team embarked on a project to improve the claims processing system. John hired some new IT Directors who had the business skills necessary to drive change and success. One of the new hires was an experience project manager who successfully managed multi-million dollar IT projects. Using a combination of internal and external resources a new claims processing systems was developed and is on track to be implemented in 12 months, 3 months ahead of schedule. This project was not an IT project. It was a business project managed by a business/IT team that collaborated effectively and worked together to focus on improving the customer experience.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org