The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is now more than four decades old. During that time, the role has transformed from a luxury to a necessity, for large and small businesses alike. Once lower-status technology developers, CIOs have become strategic players who have earned a seat at the executive table.
Right now, we’re in the midst of a new evolution of the CIO. And core to this evolution is a demand for CIOs to develop new capabilities that will enable them to future-proof their organizations and equip them for resilience.
1. Co-creating with vendors.
In years past, CIOs have approached IT procurements with an eye to squeeze as much margin out of every deal as possible. But, with advances in new technologies such as AI, as well as the broad shift to remote work, forward-thinking CIOs are changing their mindsets when it comes to working with technology vendors. As CIOs are recognizing that technology will be key to future-proofing their organizations, they are ever more eager to work with vendors that can be strategic partners, not just technology suppliers.
I recently spoke with Bill Briggs, the CTO of Deloitte and executive sponsor of Deloitte’s CIO Program, about this evolving role of the CIO. He emphasized that forward-looking CIOs are becoming more focused on developing alliances and longer-term relationships with technology vendors. He explained, “Your procurement function is no longer measured by cost per unit. It’s about lasting relationships and choosing a vendor that CIOs can lead and help shape a market together.”
As CIOs are making decisions about their technology backbones, they need to assess their relationships with vendors not based on cost per unit but, instead, based on how likely they can co-create a vision and build technology to enable a more resilient future for their organizations.
2. Forging strong relationships with CMOs.
Historically, there’s been a crippling disconnect between CIOs and Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). Research outlined in the Harvard Business Review found that these roles often do not trust each other, collaborate with each other, or even understand each other, despite each spending more than 30 percent of their respective budgets on technology. Nearly half (45 percent) of marketing execs would prefer to not have any intervention from IT.
To build a resilient organization, a strong partnership between CIOs and CMOs is paramount. A promising–yet often overlooked–foundation for developing strong partnerships are customers, since they are inextricably and increasingly top-of-mind for both roles. Only by developing shared goals around the customer experience and working from the same playbook can long-lasting partnerships between CIOs and CMOs be formed.
A strong partnership also depends on how well CIOs can instill and socialize technology literacy across their organizations. As Briggs explained to me, the most successful businesses are led by CIOs who champion technology literacy across their organizations. Especially in a remote world, where an organization’s technology strategy is even more mission-critical, technology literacy can no longer be the exclusive domain of the technology and engineering functions. CIOs need to ensure that all functions, especially marketing, are versed in new technology developments such as AI, work management tools, and VR, and how they are fundamentally changing organizations.
3. Leading with emotional intelligence.
Today’s most successful CIOs lead with emotional intelligence. To build for resilience, CIOs need to address the inevitable fear that accompanies organizational change, which requires EQ and, especially empathy. Psychological research shows that empathy is closely linked to gratitude. So, it’s understandable that high-performing CIOs are 30 percent more likely to practice gratitude as compared to lower-performing ones, according to research by Gartner.
CIOs that lead with empathy recognize that it’s no longer about choosing technology vendors based on feature-selling but, instead, based on how well vendors’ technologies align with their company’s values. They also recognize that they need to invest in technologies that meet employees where they are by investing in technologies that support a wide variety of workflows and work styles.
Forward-thinking CIOs build for resilience.
Right now, all CXOs are struggling to prioritize their most important initiatives. Recent research by Asana, where I work, found that a staggering 81 percent of executives find it difficult to prioritize their most important tasks. Building resilient organizations ought to be a top priority for all executives. For CIOs, this will require a fundamental transformation in how they build relationships with key partners, including vendors as well as line-of-business partners like CMOs. Unless these relationships are built atop empathy and emotional intelligence, ‘building for resilience’ will become a buzzword, rather than a core competency.