Are You a 21st Century CIO?

By Lucie Poulicakos, General Manager & Vice President, TierPoint

The role of the CIO or CTO—or even IT manager—hasn’t been around that long. According to CIO.com, the title of CIO didn’t come into existence until sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s. Even then, it was seen as a “trendy title,” but “often at the same level as the IT manager or MIS manager.” Not the role most CIOs probably envisioned when they finally earned their promotion!

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As technology advanced, so too did the role of the CIO and CTO. It’s been said that every organization is a technology organization these days. There’s certainly some truth to that. Everyone from C-level executive, to salesperson, to receptionist relies on technology to get the job done. Managing this level of complexity requires someone with the capacity to look at the big picture and to understand how all the pieces fit together. Somewhere in the 15 years, the role of CIO transitioned from a “trendy title” to a “must have” for every organization. And the role isn’t done changing yet.

In the last decade, more CIOs and CTOs have taken a prominent position in the organization, moving from tactical execution of plans handed down to a seat at the table during strategy discussions. The latest evidence comes from a 2016 Deloitte survey of 500 respondents representing mid-market companies with annual revenues ranging from $100 million to more than $1 billion.

Are you keeping up with the times?

This research provides some intriguing insights into the changing role of the CIO, as well as benchmarks individual CIOs, CTOs, and IT leads can use to assess their own strategic value. Let’s take a look at a couple of the findings from the report. As we go through them, we’ll also share some ways you can increase your strategic importance to the organization.

In 2014, 39.4% of respondents said adoption of new technology trends was driven by IT leadership. In 2016, that percentage rose to 53%.

Are you successfully driving the use of new technologies in your organization? Or, do you seem to be hitting a brick wall whenever you bring up new ideas?

When it feels like you’re getting nowhere, it’s easy to blame it on factors such as a fear of technology or a reluctance to spend money. Even if that’s part of it, the IT leaders who have the most success are those who can speak the language of business. You need to understand the goal of the organization and then align your proposals accordingly. For example, does senior leadership want to expand the business or are they more concerned with cutting costs? Mobility solutions might help you do either, but there’s a big difference in the way you would pitch mobility to the leadership team, knowing their key concerns.

Remember to keep your technology pitches short and sweet, too. For the most part, the people you are trying to convince are not technologists. They don’t care exactly how something works. They only care about three primary questions: What can it do for the business? What does it cost? What are the risks? Answer those three questions succinctly and in their language, and you’ll be on your way toward being considered a vital, strategic resource.

In 2014, 10.3% of respondents said their technology spend was “significantly higher” than in previous years. In 2016, that rose to 19.4%.

Are you getting the budget you ask for, or are you constantly being asked to scale back?

If you’re being asked to scale back, executive leadership clearly doesn’t see the economic value of technology. By association, it’s a good bet they don’t see your economic value either. The answer to this challenge goes back to the answer to the last one. Find out what their objectives are and talk to them – in their language – about how technology can help.

The other approach you can take is to look for ways to cut costs without decreasing your value add. Outsourcing specific services can help. For example, you may need the services of an experienced, qualified SQL Database Administrator, but not necessarily full time. Or you may be having a difficult time retaining qualified, affordable staff to manage security and compliance. Using outsourced IT can cut your costs while improving your performance and ensuring all your most important responsibilities are covered.

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about how difficult it can be for CIOs and CTOs to find the time to be strategic. Below are a few more posts on the subject. We’d also welcome a chance to visit with you about your strategic direction and how we can help.

Firing Up Innovation With IT Managed Services

Creating Alignment Between IT and Business

5 Ways to Make IT More Strategic

Lucie Poulicakos is General Manager and VP at TierPoint where she leads business operations and client engagement in two markets: Illinois and Wisconsin. Tapping a 20-year career in the technology and telecommunications industry, Lucie is focused on facility operations, client satisfaction and service delivery.  She is a driven, lead-by-example team player and proponent of empowerment and accountability and has been a key contributor in making high-stake decisions to drive growth and profitability.