Technology is transforming virtually every sector of business, regardless of company size, industry or geography. As CEOs begin to realize the strategic impact that IT has on the entire business, their expectations from CIOs are increasing dramatically.

Research by the Harvard Business Review found that, more than ever before, CEOs and CIOs are at odds over the role of IT in an ever-changing tech-driven business environment. Many CEOs believe that CIOs are not in sync with the current issues companies face, and on the other side, CIOs do not understand where the business is going or how to best support strategic goals.

Below are some key findings highlighting the clash between CEOs and CIOs:

  • Almost 50% of CEOs negatively rate their CIOs in terms of understanding the business and how to apply IT to the business in new ways.
  • Only 25% of executives feel their CIO was performing above his or her peers.
  • 57% expect the IT function to change significantly in the next three years, with 12% predicting a complete overhaul of IT.
  • Almost half of CEOs feel IT should be a “commodity service” purchased as needed.

At the same time, CEOs are demanding more visible value from their CIOs:

  • Generating revenue, gaining new customers, and increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Less focus on developing technology, more focus on innovation and transformation.
  • Responsibility for technology that accelerates competition and maximizes opportunities.

With all the challenges facing CIOs, they risk being marginalized if they don’t adapt. So the question becomes: How can CIOs drive business innovation?

While there are no set answers to this question, HBR compiled some good suggestions from CIOs at highly respected companies:

  • Don’t talk IT; talk business — According to Newport News Shipbuilding’s CIO Leni Kaufman, IT professionals should actively get involved in business conversations, rather than speaking exclusively on IT issues all the time. This approach demonstrates understanding of the business side and affects the way a CEO views and interacts with a CIO.
  • Rely on top talent to carry out the IT agenda — Tim Theriault, CIO of Walgreens, said that in order to align priorities to the CEO’s vision, you need to have an outstanding team to execute the IT agenda exceptionally well, freeing up the CIO to focus on continuous improvement and innovation.   
  • Be a compassionate contrarian — This is an essential skill that every tech leader should have, suggested Gary Hamel, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers. Essentially,  CIOs should always have the courage to look at things from a different angle, keep asking if there’s a better way, and show compassion so people realize that it’s not about fighting from the IT perspective, but about “working from the customer backwards” for the biggest impact.

At Caspio, we enable both business users and IT professionals to implement technology projects, so we continuously witness how aligning business goals and tech innovation can yield game-changing results. Caspio’s business productivity platform is designed with this vision in mind, with companies of all sizes successfully leveraging the platform to deliver tangible business results in a timely and innovative way.

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