The CIO’s journey | Part 2

CIOs: You are a CEO’s competitive advantage

In my previous article, I talked about how CIOs are now the CEO’s main competitive advantage. Hopefully that new-found importance is changing the way you think about your role. However, it’s all very well knowing we’re the competitive advantage (and attacking the list in my previous post); it’s as important the CEO knows it as well.

Here are several things about CEOs that I’ve learnt over the years. I’m not saying they’re true of every CEO out there, and of course they’re generalisations, but they tend to work:

  • They focus hard on the things shareholders value
  • They have short memories
  • They’re generally lonely
  • Individual results are fleetingly recognised, whilst relationships and engagement are more likely to have a lasting impression
  • Making them look good is universally appreciated
  • They won’t come to you; you have to go to them

So, assuming the above generalisations are correct, how do we use this information to a CIO’s advantage?

Here are a few ideas:

💡Do your own PR. It’d be great if we were all measured on our results, but I learnt the hard way that it usually doesn’t happen. As a CIO, you need to consistently toot your own trumpet. Of course, you don’t want to come off as a braggart—you might talk up your team’s successes as well.

💡Demonstrate why you’re a competitive advantage. Ask yourself: What am I doing to help this business keep ahead of the competition? What is my team doing? If you can’t think of anything, then you’re not doing your job right. Whatever you are doing, bring it to the CEO’s attention (see above).

💡Look for common interests. How does your CEO spend their time? What holds their interest, other than shareholder value? If it’s something that interests you as well, let your CEO know. Even if it doesn’t interest you, it creates goodwill when you ask people about what excites them.

💡Support the vision. The company vision should be very clear, and you need to support it with your technology strategy. The strategy has to be something the CEO understands and can talk enthusiastically about. (If the company does not have a clear vision, how can you help bring it about?)

💡Don’t be Batman. There’s no need for heroes, particularly those that dash around in the dark wielding technologies that no-one understands. And it can backfire: frequently having to make heroic fixes suggests there are fundamental problems. Either way, in the long run the CEO will tire of seeing the bat signal. Do your job well, and make sure the CEO knows it—without the drama.

💡But be adventurous. Find things to do that exploit your strengths as an innovative leader and change agent. These won’t always be in IT, but don’t let that put you off: your CEO needs flexible, business-savvy leaders. Find out how you can be of use to your CEO beyond technology.

None of this is core IT functionality—the top priority for a CIO is ensuring their department is in order. Only then can you look to create a lasting impression on the CEO.

But you’ve got to make them see the advantages you bring to the business. If the CEO doesn’t know who you are and what you’re doing for them, you might as well not be there. A CIO needs to sit up and take ownership; it’s a fundamental shift we should be engaging with now.♟️🚀

The CIO's Journey, Part 1

🎙️ Exciting News!🎙️The next episode of ‘The Curious CIO’ has just landed – Tech for Good: A CIO’s Journey in the Charity Sector. Join us as we explore the remarkable journey and insights of Paul Smith, CIO at Amnesty International 🌍Innovation, purpose, and passion fuel his journey in the charity sector.