Know-how pro to small business chief: The evolution of the CIO

Main facts officers are frequently specialists in know-how, but small business technique leadership distinguishes trailblazers from the relaxation of the pack.

Today’s IT leaders require to strike the correct harmony among engineering and company approach, a panel of industry experts stated at a recent webinar hosted by the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. A lot of CIOs are far more comfy with technological innovation than with formulating business enterprise tactic, embracing profits-technology duties, working with boards of directors, or driving alter administration. But these are all now important components of the purpose.

Study displays the evolution of the CIO from technologies specialist to organization business leader. According to’s 2023 State of the CIO survey, many CIOs are currently enjoying a strategic management job. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents stated they hope to actively push business innovation, build and refine enterprise system, and establish prospects for competitive differentiation over the next 3 many years. The study also found that CEOs assume CIOs really should prioritize strengthening IT and enterprise collaboration, and CIOs’ most critical focus is driving small business innovation.

“At the close of the day, IT is the organization and the business is IT,” reported panel moderator Shamim Mohammad, executive vice president and main data and engineering officer at CarMax. “They are all jointly, and ultimately there require to be common aims.”

But it can be tricky for CIOs to navigate the changeover from a technology focus to a broader small business part. The panelists provided the next advice.

1. Anchor everything in small business worth.

Tech leaders have a tendency to chat about engineering when they really should truly frame alternatives in the context of how they deliver for the company. Way too numerous discussions forged IT initiatives as expense-reducing initiatives mainly because these kinds of arguments are normally persuasive. Nonetheless IT leaders have to have to go further and floor conversations about technology with senior leaders in phrases they understand — anchored in business enterprise benefit and supported by return-on-expenditure metrics.


In a 2022 survey, 71% of respondents said they expect CIOs to generate small business innovation and build business enterprise approach.

“We known as it the three-finger punch,” reported George Corbin, an government who has led innovation and business enterprise transformation at key firms like Mars Inc. and Marriott Global, describing his methods for presenting IT proposals to top management. “We would essentially arrive in and say, ‘Here are three facts you require to know: We’re dropping share amongst the greatest buyer section we’re shedding share to new intermediaries, which price tag us 10x for each transaction and our loyalty is dropping.’ We established the tone, showing we are anchored on important small business needs and how a electronic proposal solves for it.”

2. Use storytelling and interaction techniques.  

A recitation of details, particularly really technological ones, won’t grab the attention of the C-suite — or the broader enterprise, for that make a difference. CIOs require to build a persuasive narrative that ties the know-how road map to company tactic, such as how it addresses particular agony factors or developments important income aims. Corbin mentioned he the moment had issues creating a case for an initiative, even nevertheless he was armed with a 160-slide presentation deck. By translating the exact same argument into a four-minute video depicting how the initiative would greatly enhance the purchaser expertise, he was ready to break by and get the government group on board.

In particular during the pandemic, “CIOs had to broaden their abilities to connect and hook up with individuals,” claimed Maryfran Johnson, the host of’s CIO Leadership Are living movie clearly show and podcast. “And the way you connect with folks is frequently through stories.”

3. Be seen and encourage.

CIOs need to have to take every possibility to get out and talk the IT eyesight, whether it’s presenting at city halls or participating in board conferences. Painting a vivid vision of the technology method not only drives invest in-in but also assists recruit champions across the organization who will be critical to success.

On a personalized front, CIOs really should actively advertise their personal model, which include on social media websites like LinkedIn. “Don’t assume of LinkedIn as a resume webpage but fairly as a promotion for your personal merchandise,” Corbin mentioned. “What is the worth prop that you carry? That’s what your LinkedIn profile must express.”

Johnson agreed. “For improved or even worse, [LinkedIn] is our skilled network in engineering,” she claimed. “That’s where by you want to start out connecting with other CIOs.”

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She recommended folks to just take a close glimpse at their social media profiles, since other people will. “Every CIO I know wants their corporation to be a magnet for know-how expertise,” she claimed. “Where is tech expertise heading to go and verify you out as a boss and see how often you are putting up? See what persons are indicating about the matters that you are posting about your staff members and what they’re carrying out, the projects you are doing the job on.”

4. Nurture trustworthy associations with C-suite friends.  

An knowledge of the organization and strong communication competencies are the basis on which CIOs can make bridges to government staff counterparts and other areas of the small business. When Mohammad arrived onboard at CarMax, he didn’t get started pitching significant transformation or IT tasks. Somewhat, he used time getting to know colleagues and partners to comprehend what their suffering details have been and what issues the corporation faced. This authorized him to zero in on areas with the most organization effects. He also produced alliances with senior executives this sort of as the chief marketing and advertising officer and main working officer, which earned him prompt believability with the rest of the management crew. 

“Anything we did arrived throughout as a corporation initiative, not a know-how initiative, advertising system, or an operations initiative,” Mohammad mentioned. “It commenced out with developing solid associations, owning mutual have confidence in, and focusing on popular problems that desired to be prevail over for the business.”

Study future: Who owns electronic innovation? Who cares?