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CIOs vitally important in defining and executing business model strategy

After reading “The CIO Edge - Seven Leadership Skills You Need To Drive Results” I wasn't certain if I wanted to cheer or scream.

The book, authored by Gartner and Korn/Ferry's experts - outlines seven leadership skills that CIOs should master to be successful. I would argue that these are skills that any senior leader needs to do his or her job. Does the fact that CIOs warrant a separate research study and book to point this out suggest that too many CIOs have had their heads in the data?

To be fair, all too many senior leaders make the mistake of focusing primarily within their function - making it the best function that it can be based on measures defined only by that function. What gets lost in these silo-cultures is the collaboration vitally important to the success of executing and evolving business model strategy and securing differentiation across the organization's offerings. (The same holds true in non-profits as well.) I wrote my book “Beyond Price: Differentiate Your Company in Ways that Really Matter” to give leadership teams a step-by-step guide to the collaborative process to build a stronger business model.

Job #1 of any “C” job (other than the CEO) is to be a member of the leadership team, running a part of the organization on behalf of the leadership team. CIOs' Job #1 is not to run the IT Department - that is what the managers reporting to the CIO do. This difference in job definition is very subtle but hugely significant. It changes the expected norms of behavior for C-Suite jobs, norms that are wonderfully described in “The CIO Edge.”

I would have added one skill to “The CIO Edge” list - an ability to identify game-changing business model strategy innovations. The CIOs that contribute the most to their organizations are not solely explaining how to automate processes to reduce costs or increase speed. They are showing where IT can open new markets, build stronger channels, create new offerings and transform customer relationships and experiences.
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I'm impressed by an effort of the Chief Marketing Officer Council and the Business Performance Improvement Network, called the CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative, to create stronger alignment between CMOs and CIOs. Data and analytics are key to managing and personalizing customer experiences, yet only 8% of CMOs and 6% of CIOs say these areas are well integrated in their organizations, according to research for the CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative. Furthermore, the majority of CMOs do not see CIO as champions of digital marketing.

Brian Whipple, Managing Director of Accenture Interactive argued in a recent CMO Council webinar that a “fully empowered digital enterprise capable of forging and making continuous relevant relationships with customers” will become table stakes for organizations, like social media is becoming today. Yet “few organizations are agile and intelligent today regarding how to personalize and optimize customer touch points using insight gained from data.”

Here's Whipple's CIO Imperative:
  • A tolerance for ambiguity
  • A CEO and leadership team willing to own their organization's digital strategy
  • Rethinking how IT investments are evaluated, as experimentation and failure will occur en route to success
  • Acquisition of highly flexible IT platforms that are results based, versus buying best-in-breed solutions, as a unified data backbone will be essential in the digitally-based environment
  • Stop mining the data and instead re-engineer it to create more positive customer experiences
  • Rethink talent management strategies; in the digitally-based company, years of experience may not matter as much as being fully versed in how a digitally-based might operate
The digital world is opening opportunities and risks for all organizations. The sooner CIOs rethink what their job is all about, the greater their organization's capacity to realize these opportunities.

More articles by Kay Plantes

Kay Plantes is an MIT-trained economist, business strategy consultant, columnist and author. Business model innovation, strategic leadership and smart economic policies are her professional passions. She resides in Madison, Wisconsin and Oslo, Norway. For more information visit her website - Business Model Innovation and read her most recent book - Beyond Price.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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