I’ve talked a lot about the importance of culture in building and sustaining successful organizations, especially in the digital age. With employees facing so much change—from software and tech changes to org structure and service offerings—companies need strong leadership to guide their employees through the ever-present transitions. But where—or better yet, who—should that vision come from?
That’s one of the most hotly contested question in the workplace today, as CEOs seek to find the right mix of talent to fill positions in the C-suite, from CIO and CMO to CDO, CUEO and CDO. That’s a lot of Cs—but one that is often lacking is “Clarity.” For me, the most important leader tasked with creating that clarity is the CIO, who can play a pivotal role in bridging the vision and technology that are so critical to today’s business market. Still, research last year showed that over half of CIOs were struggling to be taken seriously when it came to strategic vision. Why?
They’re Charged with a Lot—But Not Enough
The biggest problem I see is that although CIOs carry the title of “Chief,” they’re often tasked more with day-to-day operations than playing a true leadership role it the organization they serve. For instance, if a CIO is involved more with purchasing software or cutting costs than communicating the significance of the tech being purchased—often the entire company will bear the cost. My view: there’s never been a better time to give your CIO true authority—most importantly, in communicating the purpose of your company’s tech change.
There are Too Many Chiefs in the Kitchen
The digital age is all about breaking down silos, but with so many Cs in the ever-expanding c-suite, who really has the reigns? This is a time to consider what the term “CIO” means at your company. Does it mean managing menial day-to-day operations, or helping build a clear tech vision? And further, are you willing to make room in your CIOs day to be a leader? Or do you prefer to keep him or her busy just “keeping things running.” If the latter, you might have an efficient workplace, but I doubt your company will be running for very long. Take a look at where the power is in your organization, and whether it needs to be redistributed.
Are They Holding the Power—or Empowering Others?
It can be easy in today’s digital landscape to jump from one shiny new technology to another in trying to stay at the forefront of innovation and change. Does your CIO promote tech just for the sake of making use of his or her own power? Ideally, you need a leader who empowers departments throughout the entire enterprise to find new and innovative ways to serve customers, save money, and improve efficiencies—not just because tech is cool, but because it aligns with your company’s goals.
Are You Giving Them Opportunities to Lead?
As I’ve noted in previous articles, tech itself is never enough to build a successful company or sell a company on change. The CIO must be given the authority to communicate how new technology will grow and change the business … make customers’ lives better … and lead to more abundance across the board. That means CIOs need to be great thinkers, but also great communicators. While they don’t need to create the entire tech vision, they must be able to collaborate with the CEO and explain how tech will best suit the company’s business needs. That means identifying goals that will achieve growth, but also outlining an overall long-term tech strategy so that your company can “stay the course,” even in times of volatility and unrest.
One could argue—and many have—that CIOs are just one of many c-suite executives fighting for a piece of leadership in the new digital world. But from my perspective, a CIO’s insights should go far beyond marketing, data, analytics, or user experience. They should help define and develop a company’s place in the digital age.
Additional Resources on This Topic:
Who Needs to Lead Digital Transformation in 2017
The CIO’s Role in the Digital Transformation Process
Five Surprising Traits Top CIOs Need
Role of the Digital CIO: Lead, Challenge, Disrupt, Transform