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Strong CIO, C-suite Relationships Drive Growth

by Chris Curran on February 13, 2013 [email] [twitter]

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Your ability as a CIO to cultivate strong relationships with your C-suite peers is paramount to your professional success in an environment where IT is expected to generate revenue and enhance the customer experience. But more than your career longevity is on the line. The profitability of your company is at stake.

As part of our 5th Annual Digital IQ survey, we asked more than 1,100 business and technology executives from 12 countries to rate the strengths of the relationships between C-suite executives and the CIO on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. We found that companies with a mean relationship score of 4.5 are 4x as likely as those with less collaborative teams to be a Top Performing company (those that reported revenue growth of more than five percent, and said that their companies are in the top quartile for revenue, profitability and innovation). In other words, companies with C-suite executives who consistently collaborate with the CIO are much more likely to outperform the competition.

To be crystal clear, the research shows that to surpass the pack, it’s not enough to have a solid relationship with just one member of the C-suite. You need to build strong relationships with all members of the C-suite to reach Top Performer status.

It’s not the relationships themselves that make the difference, but the regular and meaningful discussions that guild them. The senior executives of Top Performing companies routinely engage in “digital conversations” about how to harness the power of IT to drive business goals. Companies with strong C-suite relationships across the board embed IT across their innovation, planning and execution processes. More specifically, here is what highly collaborative C-suite companies look like:

  • Business and IT leaders share the same understanding of the corporate strategy and have an explicit process to link IT to that strategy.
  • Aggressively invest in IT capital spending to support strategic corporate initiatives, such as market share growth, product and service development and M&A.
  • Invest more in emerging technologies including social, mobile, analytics & big data and cloud computing, to grow the business.
  • More aggressively leverage mobile and social technologies for employees and customers.
  • Believe big data creates a competitive advantage.
  • Institute more explicit approaches to organize, manage—and measure—innovation.
  • Recognize differences in IT needs, e.g. among different generations of employees.
  • Have everything they need on a mobile platform.
  • Understand the IT challenges that can impact the business, e.g. a lack of key skills, the ability to turn data into insight, and the pace of digital change.

Why don’t more companies operate with IT at the center of discussions and reap the resulting transformational benefits? Whether or not a company is maximizing the talent of the CIO and harnessing the unbridled power of technology often depends on two factors: 1) is the CEO a champion of IT? 2) is the CIO’s leadership style clashing with other C-suite executives?

  1. The survey shows that top performing companies also have CEOs who are champions of IT and are actively involved in IT from strategy through execution. Often, the CEO or the most senior executive determines the lens through which the C-suite views IT and whether or not IT is woven into the fabric of the business. If the CEO regularly consults the CIO about the business, the rest of the C-suite will follow suit.
  2. The CIO’s ability to adapt her leadership and communications style to accommodate her C-suite peers is essential as well. Is the CIO orchestrating relationship-building opportunities with the C-suite? Is the CIO willing to listen, experiment and fail?

Evidence that top performers partner with the CIO should give you and your C-suite peers renewed impetus to lock arms and link business and technology strategies. Relationships between the business and IT matter more than ever. The proof is in a company’s performance.

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