My simple definition is this: To Find and Keep Customers.
Why is this relevant?
If you are part of senior leadership (SLT) and you don’t know where you fit in this definition, you are not adding value, and you are not relevant.
I am a head hunter and focus on CIO’s and the companies that sell to them. The role of the CIO is changing from “leverage” (the bottom line) to “customer” (the top line).
If your job as CIO is not deeply involved in “finding and keeping customers” – do something quick, because you are not relevant right now.
If you are a CIO and don’t want to be irrelevant here are some tips:
- Make sure the leverage stuff works. If the base systems aren’t functioning, you won’t have credibility and no one will listen to you.
- Know the business. If I eavesdropped a SLT meeting would I peg you immediately as the CIO? What I should be hearing is a thoughtful and engaged business executive talking about the “art of the possible”. Contributing on all issues; deeply knowledgeable about IT.
- Don’t be boring. Too many CIO’s look and act like geeks. Don’t drone on about technical stuff – it just puts everyone to sleep. If you want to influence the SLT and Board – be compelling.
- Be a talent magnet – which presupposes strong leadership (more on this in another blog).
- Learn all the time. Be curious, connect dots, connect with people, etc.
- Be authentic. This is for everyone (I will unpack this in another posting).
- There are other factors – but I am trying to be brief – and not boring!
There is no better time for CIO’s to be involved in “finding and keeping customers”. The technology is there, and senior leaders want your contribution.
PWC says that CEO’s are concerned about 5 things: Security, Mobility, Analytics, Cloud and IoT. If you can’t find something in there to help your organization find and keep customers – perhaps you should rethink your own purpose.
PWC put out a study in 2014 to say that the top 5 things that keep CEO’s awake at night are: Security, Mobility, Analytics, Cloud and IoT (Internet of Things). They are all technology related, and yet if you look at Boards, you find few CIO’s. What’s going on?
Don’t get me wrong – there are CIO’s on Boards. Our firm has been involved in a number of searches where forward thinking CEO’s and Nominating Committees have taken action. Hats off to them. But why isn’t everyone doing it? Security is a key topic in the Boardroom, and every CIO I know is spending more and more time with their Boards, talking about what the company is doing. Hiring a great CIO is definitely part of the solution, but having a CIO on the Board is the next logical step.
Companies increasingly acknowledge that they are technology businesses. Early on FedEx realized this – the data about the package are as important as the package. A CIO I know said – “we are a technology company with wings”; an insurance CIO said “we are a database and software company operating in the insurance space”. Technology is increasingly at the core of the purpose of organizations. I have a simple definition of the universal company purpose – “to find and keep customers”. CIO’s used to be “leverage” – harmonization, standardization, cost reduction, but now they are “top line”. And if they are thinking top line, then my contention is that any major corporation needs to have a top caliber CIO on its Board.
In one organization where we placed a CIO on the Board, the CIO of that organization said to me “I am nervous about having someone who really knows IT at the Board level. My life may become miserable!” but a year later she said “it is the best thing that has happened to our company. I now have someone on the Board who understands how technology can enable, and helps me explain the technology journey, but with the credibility of an insider on the Board team”.