Strategic CIO

The Changing Role of the CIO

The evolution of information technology and the changing role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) are strategically significant in their impact on the business enterprise. Never before has there been such a good opportunity for CIOs to have a significant impact on business. Today, information technology is pervasive in all products and services you buy. Your car, phone, and shopping experience all involve the use of information technology. Business models have evolved to a point where consumers, who used to be at the tail of the arrow, are now at the tip. They drive demand for personal user experiences, which create value, enabled by information technology. Consumers are influencing the design and functionality of goods and services. Information technology is the enabler that connects the enterprise value chain of suppliers, company personnel, customers in the design, development, and distribution—and support its products and services. The CEO and other C-level executives now realize the CIO is an integral part of developing and executing business strategies, as we deepen our dependency on information technology. The result is that CIOs now have the opportunity to sit at the executive table as they work with their C-level peers to develop strategies—enabled by technology—to drive business success. To be successful at the executive suite, CIOs need to develop a set of business skills that enable them to effectively collaborate, build trust, and drive successful business outcomes. The ubiquitous use of information affects us in our personal lives as well as our business environment. The Pervasive Use of Information in Our Personal Lives The pervasive use of information technology also affects your personal life. Think about it! Almost everything you do today involves the use of technology. You preset the timer on the coffee maker so when you wake up a freshly brewed cup of coffee is waiting for you. While eating breakfast you access the newspaper on your computer or tablet. It's a cold day so you remotely start your car to warm up the engine for your drive to the office. On your way to work you need pick up a business colleague at an unfamiliar location; so you enter the address in your GPS. Your wife receives a text message from her favorite boutique informing her of a blouse that would blend perfectly with the slacks she purchased just last week. The list goes on and on. You can hardly do anything in your daily life without information technology as the facilitating agent.   The Pervasive Use of Information in Business The use of information technology in business is equally ubiquitous. Every business process across the entire value chain, from supplier to customer, uses information technology. The enterprise value chain consists of a complex network of business processes enabled by information technology. Suppliers electronically connect to the manufacturing floor and sales distribution centers. Sales personnel can access order status, inventory availability, and other information needed to properly plan and interact with customers—all in real time using any electronic device they chose. Customers can order products and services from any location around the globe, anytime of day or night, using a variety of electronic devices. This very complicated network of processes requires an information technology organization to be business savvy and technologically proficient. The Strategic CIO Today, CIOs needs to be business savvy, communicate effectively, and have a technology prowess that can leverage and enable new products and services. They need to think, behave, lead, and collaborate as they work with C-level peers to develop new products and services, create customer value, increase revenue, and enhance shareholder wealth. Strategic CIOs focus on business results. Filippo Passerini, CIO at Proctor and Gamble, developed a digitization strategy that significantly changed the way information is shared and used in conducting day-to-day business activities. One of the projects employed information technology reducing the packaging mock-up process to days instead of weeks. The result was that newly packaged products reach the marketplace sooner, positively affecting sales and revenue. CIO/CTO Randy Spratt at McKesson led business teams to reduce the time for integrating acquisitions into the company by 80 percent. IT personnel work side-by-side with factory workers, on a periodic basis, to experience how IT applications are used. They observe, participate, and recommend changes to the applications that improve productivity of the workforce. CIO Rob Carter at FedEx works with business peers every day to improve delivery and customer satisfaction. For these CIOs, as well as others, it is all about teams of IT and non-IT personnel collaborating to solve business problems by improving business processes. The Strategic CIO cannot succeed alone. The organization he or she leads must also think and behave in business terms. When you speak to strategic CIOs, and explore their journey, you recognize a pattern of success. They all follow a five-phase process that transformed their organization from a technology-centered organization to a strategic IT organization.

Summary In future articles we will explore how CIOs move through these five phases can be very rewarding. We will explore each of these transformation phases and share success stories as well as lessons learned from strategic CIOs. You can apply their lessons learned to your journey of becoming a strategic CIO and transform your IT organization to drive business results. As a strategic CIO, you can have a significant impact on the success of your company. The journey is not easy but the rewards are immense, both personally and professionally.

Phil Weinzimer is president of Strategere Consulting and works with clients to develop business and IT strategies that achieve business outcomes. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Strategic CIO; Changing the Dynamics of the Business Enterprise, to be published by Taylor and Francis. His previous book, Getting It Right; Creating Customer Value for Market Leadership; published by John Wiley, focused on transforming organizations to become customer focused. Contact him at

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