How Technology Innovations Can Make or Break a CIO

From cost center to strategic business contributor, a new kind of CIO emerges. He / she is perhaps more a business leader than technology guru, and the technology roadmap is rightfully now an overlay of the business roadmap. Yet as Laurie Elliott writes for, the transition continues, meeting its stiffest resistance from within IT itself.

The Challenge from IT

The effective CIO is one whose tenure lasts beyond the average 2-3 year mark. If you’ve ever been to a customer meeting where the CIO lays out a strategic vision for IT only for it to be pooh-poohed by the IT staff after leaving the meeting, they you know what is at stake.

Four Actions to Take

  1. Forge a vision of unity.
  2. Inspire change from within.
  3. Make the victories count.
  4. Communicate, and then communicate some more.

The most salient challenge CIOs face is probably buy-in from staff. In one sense they must communicate a strategic vision to IT, but then have the ROI and time to return (TTR) figures for CEOs. Going a bit deeper into this notion of “vision,” it’s important for CIOs not to dictate change to anyone. Instead, change must be forged out of a custom-tailored story that is crafted to inspire the organization from within. And to that end, a good story needs its high points. That’s why celebrating milestones is so important, as it will bring visibility and support to your efforts. Elliott recommends “over-communication” as a means to achieve what she deems the CIO’s most important work:

Many businesses continue to look upon IT as a cost center and not as a contributor to business growth. Many IT organizations are not visionary or nimble enough to deliver the innovation that their business units require, causing business units to contract IT services outside the company. Regardless, the CIO must recognize the situation and accept the challenge of driving change.

Left alone, the CIO may find this challenge intractable. Fortunately, there are industry experts and business architects who can assist in providing best practices.

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