The CIO as business strategist
Playing the business strategists part
The CIOs role as a business strategist can prove to be a blessing for
a company, but may be easier said than done. Heres how a CIO can adapt
and create winning business strategies made possible by IT. by Minu Sirsalewala
Strategic planning could be defined as trying to predict where an industry
and business will be three to five years down the road. Strategic planning skills
are critical because without them the CIO can't help his company be agile and
respond to changes in the marketplace.
Good strategic planning and thinking skills help the CIO have influence beyond
the IT department, as he is the one who works with every business unit. The
CIO needs to understand and see more possibilities where technology can help
the company be more competitive.
But developing this skill is complicated. CIOs are hard-pressed to give advice
on how to think. Instead, they say it's a skill that has evolved naturally from
their work experiences.
It begins with you
According to V.V.R Babu, Chief Information Officer, ITC Limited, you cannot
be taught how to think strategically, but you can help yourself by attempting
to understand the business model and understanding the superior value it is
trying to offer to it's customers compared to it's competition.
In the global economy, the competition landscape keeps changing and accordingly
the business strategies of existing and new competitors need to be challenged.
This will require leveraging IT to create the cutting edge for differentiating
itself from the competition.
Participating in conferences and knowledge forums, and looking up relevant research
reports can help a CIO adopt new technologies and solutions for an early mover
advantage. The experiences and learning thus gained can be shared with the top
management and various business heads for creating awareness and buy-in.
Refine strategic planning
CIOs also suggest the following ways to refine strategic planning and thinking
CIOs should attend company planning sessions. At these meetings, CIOs can see
the strategy development process in action, including brainstorming, and scenario-based
planning. CIOs can invite themselves to these meetings if they're not already
part of the planning team.
Director & Chief Information Officer, Eicher Group points out that you need
to delegate tasks to operational managers in IT. This gives CIOs more time to
build relationships with colleagues who can provide a big-picture view of the
company and where it needs to go in future. None of these skills is easy to
learn, and takes years to master. But CIOs who take the time to develop them
should excel in their jobs.
C.N. Ram, Head-Information Technology at HDFC Bank articulates, "Think
like the business guys. Do not make the mistake of thinking that only business
or operations-personnel know the business. It is all common sense anyway. Know
that they do not understand technology the way you do."
New skills for IT leadership
In the modern corporation the CIO has to meet a tall order. The CIO has to have
the business acumen and influencing skills to pilot executive committees to
the right decisions and be technically equipped in execution to deliver the
goods. Most of the technology managers have developed these skills through their
The CIO needs to identify the important players in their organizations and industries
and know what issues matter to them. They have to be politically adept, leveraging
their relationships with the people to address problems and opportunities.
Other corporate officers should view the CIO as a thought leader. One good way
to accomplish this is by staying abreast of important technologies and trends.
Most companies already realize that CIOs can and should be responsible for developing
Build a foundation
Leadership skill isn't really a skill, it's a quality. CIOs must show personal
character. He/she has to say what is right, not just what is convenient, or
what others want to hear.
The CIO will have to earn credibility to have committed staffers and partners
to be successful. This will require a mix of 'hard' management skills and 'soft'
skills like mentoring and celebrating team successes.
Expecting a complete understanding of the changing nature of IT from other executives
will require a planned customized approach to influencing. A CIO should involve
his peers in IT decisions to get their buy-ins as there are limits to personal
Strategy and vision
The CIO's strategy and vision demands the following:
- In depth understanding of the companies financial standing.
- An eye for opportunities to further align IT resources with business objectives.
- To be a part of various executive committees in order to understand the
different functional issues and ways to address them.
- To adopt a continuous, business-integrated IT strategic planning process
in which the CIO aligns IT resources and implements the necessary procedures
and operations to support the corporate vision.
||Apart from technical competence and good
business sense, ingredients that distinguish success from failure are vision
and courage. A quotation by Cicero which inspired Napoleon “An army of rabbits
led by a lion will always overcome an army of lions led by a rabbit.” Vikram
R. SriHari, Director-Business Systems, Coca-Cola India,
The CIO is as much of a salesman as the salesperson in the field. Vikram R.
SriHari, Director-Business Systems, Coca-Cola India, opines that sooner the
realization dawns, the more effective he/she would be in a business context.
He/she needs to coax, cajole and convince the Business, the Management, and
all the Functional stakeholders, of the need to adopt IT as an essential component
of the strategy for the organization. to achieve this, it is essential that
he/she is as well versed in the business exigencies, and I would go as far as
to say that, the CIO of the day must even be capable of filling the shoes of
a CEO. A dangerous statement, but one that is the key to success of the business,
as it exemplifies a mindset. An indication that the CIO's strategies are a success
is that the success of technology projects will be measured by how well the
organization performs in business, and not on the success of the technology
alone. It is not just about how well you manage but the direction in which you
steer the company in the market.
Technology and business futurist Don Tapscott, co-author of 'Naked Corporation'
says that the trend toward the 'unbundling' of vertically integrated corporations
means that their success will depend on how effectively they use technology
to communicate and collaborate. By 2010, he says, a company will either have
an effective CIO or it will not be in business.
In the coming years the CIOs will have to be bold decision-makers and accomplish
their tasks without having to lean on formal authority. CIOs will be veritable
business strategy partners by providing inputs that business leaders actively
Many CIOs believe that in the next five years, every CIO of a major prospering
corporation will possess the required leadership skills because organizations
without great IT leadership will not be in the race.
For today's CIOs, the requirement for the future is clear. Build on your strengths
and work hard on your weaknesses. We need to be personally accountable for improving
our leadership skills if we are to become true change agents.
SriHari of Coca-Cola says, No CIO can make an omelette without breaking
eggs, and aside from technical competence, good business sense and the ability
to manage the vendor/partner relationship; the two vital ingredients that distinguish
success from failure are vision and courage. Napoleon was fond of a quotation
by Cicero which inspired him. An army of rabbits led by a lion will always
overcome an army of lions lead by a rabbit.
The CEO and the CIO have to be the ones who will innovate in the corporation
and tell people to change the business processes by taking advantage of new
Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
| Karen Rubenstrunk - MetaGroup
Understanding the enterprises core
business values and contributing to the companys ability to reach
business objectives and promote brand identity are the hallmarks of a
savvy CIO with aspirations to join (or lead) the management committee.
The CIO must manage the IT organization in
a way that lends credibility as a business strategist in the boardroom.
As the IT organization's role moves beyond efficiency to business effectiveness,
CIOs will have four primary objectives
1. Inculcating value management into IT culture.
2. Using IT portfolio management as a communication and investment vehicle.
3. Developing human capital management processes that increase IT employee
4. Ensuring that core IT processes are singular, understood, consistent,
CIOs should adopt IT portfolio management
techniques to align IT assets with current (and future) business needs
to achieve an acceptable balance of risk/reward and value to the enterprises.
As the economic downturn causes many enterprises
to reassess their spending patterns, CIOs face increasing budget scrutiny.
Savvy CIOs will adopt a portfolio management prioritization process that
qualifies and quantifies IT investments and demonstrates alignment with
an ever-changing business focus.
CIOs should target IT procurement to improve
performance and reduce costs, and consolidate and rationalize IT investments
across the IT organization with a single supplier management tool.
Finally, CIOs should create measurement programs
that identify key performance indicators, capture performance-to-plan
measurements, and evaluate/communicate the results throughout the enterprise.
IT value programs can be effectively created,
captured, communicated, and successful long-term when identifiable outcomes
can be explicitly aligned with the interest of all stakeholders-shareholders,
customers, board members, and senior executives, as well as staff members.
Leading organizations and top CIOs will master
the management and communication of value perceptions using a portfolio
management approach. IT organizations with consistently high value ratings
will excel in value delivery processes like IT portfolio management, project
and change management, adaptive IT organization and infrastructure development,
and human capital management.
CIO with respect
The CIO who gains respect as a business strategist
will implement these techniques successfully within the IT organization,
communicate that success to the organization as a whole, and align the
value and perception of the IT organization with the goals and mission
of the business.