October 29, 2013

The Modern CIO – Coupling IT with Strategy

Today’s Chief Information Officer is responsible for a lot more than simply implementing technology and making sure it functions. The modern CIO is being forced to adapt to a business culture where a company’s bottom line is the ultimate measurement of an initiative’s success or failure. By aligning IT with marketing and sales, CIOs can leverage technology and turn it into a strategic business asset.

Huffington Post’s Vala Afshar recently authored an article, 7 Ways to Turn IT Into a Strategic Business Asset, featuring advice based on an interview with current Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson and retiring CIO Frank Modruson. The pair discussed how important it is for a CIO to develop a deep understanding of the business and work closely with every department head in order to understand their needs and how IT can benefit the overall business. A full version of the interview is available on the CXO Talk website and is embedded below.

In the interview, Wilson says, “The role of the CIO as order taker, back office and mere cost center is long gone. The CIO of today and tomorrow is that of an internal consultant or coach bringing innovation and ideas to the business and an orchestrator of the various technologies that don’t always integrate.”

The pair also highlights the importance of partnering with every area of the business. An Accenture study published this August points to a serious disconnect between CIOs and CMOs. The study, which was based on a survey of 400 senior marketing and 250 IT executives in ten countries, found that only one in ten of the executives surveyed believe that collaboration between CMOs and CIOs is currently at the right level.

Accenture Interactive managing director Brian Whipple had this to say about the results: “The CMO and CIO continue to work in silos, but now more than ever, bridging the gap between those two organizations is critical for success. With today’s multichannel consumer seeking highly relevant experiences and with digital and analytics platforms emerging to help companies respond, marketing and IT executives must work more closely together.”

Speaking at the Crain’s CIO conference, the University of Michigan’s CIO Laura Patterson and CFO Tim Slottow discussed how a CFO and CIO should work their roles together: “When she comes into my office, talks about teraflops, yeah, my eyes glaze over,” said Tim. “But if she talks about strategy, about how we can set it up for students to pay their bills in the middle of the night or how patients at the health system can see their records right away, that’s got my attention.”

As CIOs begin to work more closely with various departments within their company, they will continue to be an integral part of the business. IT is no longer a single, closed-off department; it has become, in many cases, the business itself. Properly leveraging such power and knowledge will benefit the company as a whole.