The CIO-CEO partnership: what CIOs need to do to be heard

Recently, data has taken a leading role in driving business success. According to Forbes, 2014 was the year that leveraging analytics went mainstream in the enterprise. Figures from Gartner suggest that over $44 billion was spent on it last year alone. Naturally, CEOs have relied heavily on their Chief Information Officers (CIO) to make this work for them.

However, 2015 marks a move from the information economy to the innovation economy. According to the 13th State of the CIO survey, CIOs say their CEOs are not only reliant on them to help the company reach a specific revenue goal, and support customer acquisition and retention, they’re also expected to lead product and process innovation efforts.

Additionally, PwC reports that 80% of CEOs believe innovation will drive efficiencies and lead to competitive advantage, and innovation technology is one way of capturing both.

> See also: 9 common ways that businesses inhibit innovation

With the global economy still shaky, the fight to win business is tougher and more impacted, packed with younger peers constantly disrupting the marketplace. Companies that fail to innovate – or worse, innovate on the wrong ideas – risk extinction.

Consider what’s happened to British high street staples Woolworths, Blockbuster, and Borders over the last few years thanks to online services like Amazon, Love Film, and Netflix. As Jackie Fenn, a specialist in innovation at Gartner said, 'You cannot afford to stay still – business is a moving escalator.'

While the data-driven information economy is all about reviewing the past to predict future patterns of success, the innovation economy focuses entirely on the future – creating a continuous stream of new ways to address challenges and business opportunities.

I believe that both the past and future have a part to play in business success and that a strong CIO will take the lead on bringing them both into the present for his or her CEO. But how can they do this?

For the CIO who wants to do more, this is the chance you’ve been waiting for. CIOs that focus on enabling their companies to innovate better and faster create big wins for the business, and themselves, by increasing their strategic value.

Investing in the necessary analytics and programming expertise is the first step to ensuring that you can make sense of the past. Although, as Gartner warns, these data-focused analytical skills need to be paired with business analysis ability, in order to distinguish insights that will deliver tangible success.

> See also: Entrepreneurial success is 50% culture, 50% killer cloud strategy: Jaspreet Singh, CEO, Druva

When considering the future, it will be key to move innovation beyond small, senior-level discussions to truly collaborative, repeatable, and scalable processes. By engaging wider networks in innovation, including all employees, customers, and partners, you can surface a greater pool of ideas providing a higher probability of success.

The CIO can achieve this level and scale of innovation by looking for useful technologies and applying them to improve existing processes – although, this has long been in the CIO charter. To add genuine value and be more strategic, CIOs can help drive and manage innovation by implementing technology that supports execution of the innovation process itself.

By enabling the crowd to forecast revenue, estimate time-to-market, and evaluate costs of implementing different ideas, CIOs could able to better predict the overall ROI of their innovation programme. This is exactly the kind of data that CEOs need to feel confident about resource allocation and investments when it comes to innovation.

As the driver of all things digital, the Chief Information Officer is best placed to bring these elements together for the CEO – perhaps with support from an innovation executive or team. By doing so, they will make themselves indispensable to the CEO and the business as a whole.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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