Engineering pro to company chief: The evolution of the CIO

Engineering pro to company chief: The evolution of the CIO

Main facts officers are typically authorities in engineering, but small business strategy management distinguishes trailblazers from the rest of the pack.

Today’s IT leaders need to have to strike the suitable harmony involving technology and company strategy, a panel of professionals said at a current webinar hosted by the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Quite a few CIOs are additional relaxed with technological innovation than with formulating organization method, embracing profits-generation obligations, doing work with boards of directors, or driving improve administration. But these are all now significant sections of the position.

Investigate demonstrates the evolution of the CIO from know-how specialist to company business leader. According to’s 2023 State of the CIO survey, quite a few CIOs are presently playing a strategic management position. Just about 3-quarters (71%) of respondents stated they assume to actively generate company innovation, acquire and refine small business system, and identify alternatives for aggressive differentiation in excess of the subsequent three yrs. The survey also located that CEOs feel CIOs ought to prioritize strengthening IT and business collaboration, and CIOs’ most critical emphasis is driving company innovation.

“At the close of the day, IT is the enterprise and the small business is IT,” claimed panel moderator Shamim Mohammad, executive vice president and chief data and technological innovation officer at CarMax. “They are all with each other, and finally there will need to be prevalent objectives.”

Still it can be tough for CIOs to navigate the transition from a technology emphasis to a broader company function. The panelists offered the following advice.

1. Anchor every little thing in company worth.

Tech leaders have a inclination to converse about technologies when they should actually body solutions in the context of how they deliver for the company. Also lots of conversations cast IT tasks as value-reducing initiatives simply because these types of arguments are normally persuasive. Nonetheless IT leaders need to have to go even further and ground conversations about technological know-how with senior leaders in conditions they understand — anchored in business price and supported by return-on-financial investment metrics.


In a 2022 study, 71% of respondents claimed they expect CIOs to drive business enterprise innovation and create company strategy.

“We identified as it the three-finger punch,” mentioned George Corbin, an executive who has led innovation and company transformation at big corporations like Mars Inc. and Marriott Global, describing his strategies for presenting IT proposals to leading administration. “We would primarily occur in and say, ‘Here are a few facts you have to have to know: We’re dropping share among the premier buyer segment we’re shedding share to new intermediaries, which price tag us 10x for every transaction and our loyalty is dropping.’ We set the tone, showing we are anchored on crucial organization demands and how a digital proposal solves for it.”

2. Use storytelling and communication techniques.  

A recitation of details, particularly very complex kinds, won’t grab the consideration of the C-suite — or the broader organization, for that issue. CIOs will need to establish a compelling narrative that ties the technology street map to enterprise tactic, which includes how it addresses particular suffering factors or innovations crucial profits objectives. Corbin said he at the time had problems earning a case for an initiative, even although he was armed with a 160-slide presentation deck. By translating the exact same argument into a four-minute online video depicting how the initiative would boost the buyer experience, he was in a position to split by means of and get the executive workforce on board.

Specially through the pandemic, “CIOs had to broaden their talents to talk and link with individuals,” explained Maryfran Johnson, the host of’s CIO Leadership Are living movie exhibit and podcast. “And the way you join with people today is normally by means of stories.”

3. Be visible and inspire.

CIOs have to have to get each and every prospect to get out and communicate the IT eyesight, irrespective of whether it’s presenting at city halls or collaborating in board meetings. Painting a vivid vision of the technological know-how technique not only drives obtain-in but also will help recruit champions across the corporation who will be vital to good results.

On a own entrance, CIOs should actively promote their own brand, which include on social media internet sites like LinkedIn. “Don’t feel of LinkedIn as a resume webpage but relatively as a marketing for your personalized product or service,” Corbin reported. “What is the price prop that you carry? That is what your LinkedIn profile should express.”

Johnson agreed. “For better or even worse, [LinkedIn] is our qualified network in technology,” she stated. “That’s the place you want to start out connecting with other CIOs.”

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She encouraged persons to acquire a close search at their social media profiles, since other individuals will. “Every CIO I know would like their firm to be a magnet for technologies talent,” she reported. “Where is tech expertise heading to go and check out you out as a boss and see how frequently you are putting up? See what individuals are saying about the things that you’re publishing about your staff and what they are doing, the tasks you’re working on.”

4. Nurture dependable associations with C-suite friends.  

An being familiar with of the company and potent interaction techniques are the basis on which CIOs can create bridges to govt crew counterparts and other areas of the organization. When Mohammad arrived onboard at CarMax, he did not start out pitching major transformation or IT assignments. Rather, he invested time obtaining to know colleagues and companions to realize what their ache details had been and what worries the corporation confronted. This allowed him to zero in on spots with the most company affect. He also made alliances with senior executives such as the main marketing officer and main functioning officer, which gained him quick believability with the relaxation of the management group. 

“Anything we did arrived across as a business initiative, not a technologies initiative, advertising application, or an operations initiative,” Mohammad stated. “It started off out with making good relationships, owning mutual rely on, and focusing on frequent difficulties that required to be overcome for the business.”

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