This article, written by Vincent Bieri, Nexthink Co-founder, first appeared on Forbes on November 14, 2017.
Technology is transforming business, and the impact is backed by solid data. According to Pierre Nanterme, the CEO of Accenture, more than half of companies that were on the Fortune 500 in 2000 are no longer around, and it would seem that digital is the main reason. Their demise is clearly not due to a lack of high-value products or services, but instead to the pace of digital change and their inability to keep up with evolving customer expectations, government regulations and emerging security threats, such as malware and ransomware attacks.
Successful companies that have heard the siren call of digital transformation are well on their way to digitizing almost everything, from collaboration methods to high-level meetings to product development. But many still may be missing the mark.
When members of the C-suite convene to talk about the impact of new digital initiatives and options, they don’t leave room for the CIO. Lacking the ground-level technology insight and critical metrics that these tech specialists can bring to the table, companies are effectively flying blind through an increasingly crowded airspace. Businesses must change boardroom dynamics to embrace the growing role of the CIO, but this is no easy task.
Companies lose money when IT can’t keep up with user demand, and CIOs are struggling against the negative perception many employees have of IT and tech response in general. According to a recent survey conducted by Forrester on behalf of Nexthink, “Only 36% of business users think IT is aligned with the needs of the business, delivers projects on time, reduces frequency of issues and offers updates to improve productivity.” On top of that, just 34% of end users believe IT views them and their satisfaction as a priority. Add in the reputation, compliance and remediation costs of a data breach, and it’s no wonder that CIOs are feeling the heat. They’re stuck with reactive IT services that can’t accurately diagnose user experiences, and without the metrics to make meaningful analysis, they’re leaving boardrooms to make technology decisions without actionable metrics or expert insight.
Talk The Talk
So how do CIOs earn their rightful place at the table? It starts with other C-suite members making room, recognizing the value of CIO insight and moving closer so there’s space for one more chair. But CIOs must also do their part — they must break out of their comfort zones from behind the scenes and move front and center.
Fundamentally, this means shifting from tech-driven discussions and presentations to a more strategic delivery style. Think of it like in-depth research versus a summary of results: While IT teams need to know the ins and outs of all relevant tech decisions and deployments, C-suite members simply don’t have the time (or interest) to make this approach workable. Instead, CIOs must learn the art of high-level summarization, which includes presenting salient points, offering avenues of resolution and providing a business-based rationale for decision making. In other words, while saying, “AI is necessary for IT security” is an unassailable argument for technology professionals, it’s not enough in isolation for finance-focused boardrooms.
When C-suite leaders talk in the boardroom, they discuss key corporate goals such as how to improve sales, generate revenue and maximize customer satisfaction. Little do they realize that the answer to most of those questions lies with IT. Here’s what they should be asking: Are company networks capable of handling e-commerce demand? Are employee-facing technologies working as intended? Is IT security sufficient to protect sensitive consumer data?
This is where CIOs can make the biggest impact: Obtaining, curating and then delivering line-of-business insights derived from real-time user data. With the right back-end processes in place, CIOs can create issue-specific evaluations that speak directly to C-suite concerns and provide the foundation for long-term business strategy.
True digital workplace transformation demands a seat for CIOs at the boardroom table. The way CIOs can earn their spot is by talking the C-level talk, outlining the broader strategic technology picture and how it aligns with corporate goals and backing this up with actionable employee data.