IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
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Rob Preston
Rob Preston
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Down To Business: Do You Have Boardroom Chops?

How comfortable would you be in articulating the business value of the technology you build or oversee? The answer should tell you a lot about your value to your organization.

Gone are the days when most IT pros could succeed without a deep understanding of boardroom priorities. Profit and loss, cash flow, customer acquisition and retention, governance and regulatory compliance, productivity, and return on investment aren't just CEO, CFO, and COO considerations. Every CIO and business technology team must breathe the boardroom air.

At this week's InformationWeek 500 Conference in Dana Point, Calif., a who's who of CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, and other business technology leaders are discussing and debating the critical issues of the day, under the theme "Navigating The Boardroom." The centerpiece of the conference is a celebration of the InformationWeek 500--the "relentless innovators," as we call them in this special issue of the magazine. They're 500 tech-driven organizations with the smarts and gumption to unlock new markets, revenue sources, and business models, often with smaller budgets and fewer people.

Every technology project evaluated by No. 3 company Progressive Insurance, for example, must meet two key objectives set by the CEO and CIO: speed to market (did the project's business and technology stakeholders deliver in the time frame they promised, and if not, why not); and "financial throughput" (the hard ROI). The company's new Name Your Price application, a Flash-based app that gives customers a novel way to get quotes on policies, is now at the center of the company's advertising and value proposition. Such development doesn't happen in an IT vacuum.

The IT organization of No. 5 company is among the most board-savvy among InformationWeek 500 companies. Given that Salesforce is a tech vendor, its IT department actually sits in the R&D organization, so that cloud-based innovations that spring from the company's product labs can be put into practice internally from the get-go. No longer do Salesforce developers hunker down for months testing customized software that serves only internal needs. "We finally have the opportunity to become part of the roundtable for discussing business activity and function," says Trae Chancellor, VP of enterprise strategy--and previously the company's CIO.

But not every CIO is a game-changer; not every IT organization is up to the strategic challenge. A recent IBM study of 2,598 CIOs in 78 countries, analyzed astutely by my colleague Bob Evans, finds that CIOs at high-growth companies are far more involved in setting strategy, driving innovation, engaging with customers, and optimizing business processes than are CIOs at low-growth companies. For example, when asked if they co-create business strategy with fellow execs, 74% of CIOs at high-growth companies said they do, compared with only 61% of CIOs at low-growth companies.

If you were thrown into a boardroom session, how comfortable would you be in articulating the business value of the technology you build or oversee? The answer should tell you a lot about your value to your organization.

Rob Preston,
VP and Editor in Chief

To find out more about Rob Preston, please visit his page.

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