Strategic CIO

CIOs Must Focus on Business Value to Survive

CIO’s and the IT organization must focus on delivering business value or their careers will very likely take a nosedive. It’s not just about the technology anymore. It’s about leveraging enabling technologies to drive business outcomes that grow and sustain the business. Remember the lyrics of Bob Dylan:

If your time to you Is worth savin, Then you better start swimmin’    Or you’ll sink like a stone.  

For the times they are a-changin’

CIOs who focus on business value understand the following realities in today’s global and dynamic marketplace.

1. Don’t look now: Information Technology is in EVERYTHING you touch.

Major changes have occurred in today’s rapid global business environment.

  1. Products sold to customers have embedded technologies that provide customer value – You can use your Smart Phone to scan product barcodes to find competitive prices providing the customer a real-time shopping experience.
  2.  Business processes which run the enterprise require sophisticated applications, enabling customers to receive added value resulting in increased sales – Stores offer recommendations via text to customers based upon their buying habits that drive additional sales.
  3. Product life cycles and market response times are shortening, forcing IT organizations to figure out how to rapidly respond and support changing business needs – A few years ago RIM  was king-of-the-hill with its Blackberry device. Unfortunately, RIM sat on their laurels while Google and Apple smart phones replaced the Blackberry at a record rate. Today RIM’s very existence is in jeopardy.

2. The CIO must focus on Strategic Value, People Skills, and leverage Enabling Technologies.

What has changed in the world of the CIO?

  1. The role of the CIO has moved from a technical role to a strategic role as the CIO partners collaboratively with business peers to create value –  The CIO of a major wine producer partners with the Marketing VP to develop a stocking strategy, improving regional sales
  2. CIO’s are rebuilding the competencies and skills of the IT organization as IT/Business teams collaboratively focus on business outcomes –  The CIO of a major construction company and his entire leadership team visit each global business unit to learn about the business and regional objectives.
  3. The CIO leverages enabling technologies to create new and enhanced products and services that create customer value, increase profitability, and enhance shareholder wealth –  The CIO of global consumer products company leverages selected vendors in a partnership program to work with business units saving hundreds of millions of dollars in cost.

3. The CIO must develop THREE CRITICAL COMPETENCIES and their associated skills.

When the CIO attends a meeting with CEO, CFO, and CMO to collaborate on solving business problems the discussion will focus on business issues. The CIO needs to connect the dots between business needs and the enabling technologies which result in achieving business outcomes. To be a successful business partner the CIO and the IT organization need to develop the following new competencies:

  1. A.    Develop  Business Knowledge  with an understanding of the business, its products, the processes that operate the business, and the opportunities which enable the business to grow. This is the only way a CIO can build the trust needed to be considered a value based business partner
  2. B.  Utilize  Market Knowledge  with an understanding of market the company competes in, the customer value of the company’s products, and the competitor profiles and associated opportunities. Otherwise the CIO just sits at the table and takes direction instead of proactively participating in solving the business problem
  3. C.  Leverage  Technology Prowess    by identifying new and emerging technologies and map them to solving business problems. Being able to connect the dots will dramatically speed up the ability for IT to respond to business needs

With technology changing so rapidly in today’s global and highly competitive market, success for the CIO and the IT organization can only be achieved if the focus is on business outcomes. To be successful the IT organization needs to develop a set of competencies and associated skills around business knowledge, market knowledge, and technology prowess.

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

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