How Today’s CIOs Drive Value

Modern chief information officers need to drive value for their company and its customers, which means their employers can no longer afford to view IT as a cost center.

Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer

May 1, 2024

4 Min Read
one red paper plane pointing in different way on blue background. Business for new ideas creativity and innovative solution concepts.
jong ho shin via Alamy Stock

Modern CIOs are masters at digital transformation, but more importantly, they’re able to make a more obvious difference to their company’s top and bottom lines than before. Unlike traditional IT departments, which “kept the lights on” and were considered cost centers, today’s IT is inextricably intertwined with the business and helping to proactively drive business value.  

“Organizations where IT is valued as a strategic partner typically have strong leadership that aligns technology initiatives with business goals,” says Rajesh Jethwa, chief technology officer at software and data engineering consultancy Digiterre, in an email interview. “These companies invest in their technology departments, not just financially but also by promoting a culture of continuous improvement. Success stories often involve clear communication of IT's achievements and a focus on collaborative, cross-functional teams as well as a seat at the board for technology leaders.” 

Technology Is Secondary 

Prior to digital transformation, business and IT began to merge, but they moved at different speeds. The accelerated pace of business, industry disruptions and the pandemic changed that, forcing organizations to become digital virtually overnight. While the pandemic caused a lot of tactical scrambling, CIOs and CTOs had already become more involved with business strategy and working with other members of the C-suite to make sure that what they delivered benefited stakeholders. Now, some CIOs have become innovators, bringing new ideas and possibilities forward. 

Related:Why Your Enterprise Should Create an Internal Talent Marketplace

Technology is viewed a means to an end, not an end in itself. 

"Where we often see missteps and challenges is when technology is deployed [or] embraced out of a reaction. We saw this a lot in healthcare coming out of the pandemic. Hospitals quickly had to embrace virtual technology and quickly move workstreams onto the cloud without a long-term strategy. This was necessary so they could remain operational but leaves many with siloed data and workstreams, which can open the door to security vulnerabilities and decrease the efficiency of your workforce,” says Kristi Cunningham, US CTO at IT services provider Kyndryl in an email interview. 

The company hired former nurses and doctors that sit on customer-facing teams because they have an intimate knowledge of the environment in which healthcare customers operate and how the technology will impact those using it each day. This enables them to advise on the strategy accordingly. 

“Organizations need to focus on the challenges they’re trying to solve and then map out a holistic, end-to-end solution, bringing in the right people and partners to support that along the way. And taking it a step further, make sure you have the right people involved as you’re designing and implementing your plan,” says Cunningham. “Not only will this support your organization now, but it lays the groundwork for future innovation.” 

Related:GPUs Force CIOs to Rethink the Datacenter

Agile Ways of Working and Soft Skills Help 

Organizational agility has its roots in IT because software development was the first to adopt agile mindsets and methodologies. Among them, minimally viable products (MVPs) and proofs of concept (POCs) help IT departments demonstrate the potential value of a solution faster than the old waterfall method. Agile practices also involve collaboration among stakeholders, which accelerates the realization of business value.  

Another, feature of modern IT departments is the concept of billbacks -- billing other departments or lines of business for the IT resources they consume which not only requires interdepartmental communication but also a joint commitment to solving real business problems. 

“For me, this all boils down to relationships and the simple ability to communicate initiatives and progress against them in simple business terms,” says Steve Doyle, VP and chief information officer at EnterpriseDB, an enterprise-class software and services company focused on Postgres in an email interview. “Actual business needs or requirements are seldom obvious, and teams [tend] to want to find and deploy their own solutions but that's not what we want. 

Related:10 Ways IT Leaders Can Encourage Employees to Be Greener

IT needs to be seen as a partner who can glean requirements from an intimate knowledge of the business, fostered through strong relationships that are based on a foundation of trust.” 

When it comes to communication, Doyle warns that CIOs should be sure to articulate the business value of what they're doing because nobody wants to know that the company is closing another data center by moving critical resources to the cloud. Instead, CIOs need to clearly articulate how they've reduced costs, eliminated risk or enabled greater velocity through some technical enablement. 

“That's what matters,” says Doyle. “IT professionals like to speak in technical terms but bridging the gap to actual business value is how the best relationships between IT and the business are actually fostered.” 

About the Author(s)

Lisa Morgan

Freelance Writer

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers business and IT strategy and emerging technology for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include big data, mobility, enterprise software, the cloud, software development, and emerging cultural issues affecting the C-suite.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights