Three harmonious factors that change the CIO octave

Wikipedia: The term harmony derives from the Greek ‘harmonia’, meaning “joint, agreement, concord”, from the verb ‘harmozo’, “to fit together, to join.

The future of the CIO role comes down to this very issue. Many speak of the demise of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Yet, a growing contingent of folks sees the path to success for the ‘new’ CIO role. Make no mistake; the (old) traditional CIO looks little to nothing like the (new) transformational CIO role. Unfortunately, many in traditional CIO roles will never make it into transformational CIO roles. The leap between the two roles will prove too great for many.

While these changes may seem obvious, actual widespread adoption continues to lag. Companies and their business leaders are craving these CIO success factors, yet they remain illusive.

Shifting focus

For those looking to shift gears to a higher orbit, there are a number of core success factors that come to light. Each of these provides the alignment necessary to refocus the CIO role toward a business-centric role.

  1. Follow the Money: Focus on key areas that govern the flow of money both in and out of the company.
  2. Partner: Go beyond just the basics of partnering with fellow business leaders. Truly understand their objectives and propose ways to enhance or expand their opportunities. In order to partner, collaboration is a must.
  3. Communicate: Providing regular status reports will not cut it. Use communication vehicles to communicate the IT priorities and how they benefit both the company and the specific leader’s objectives.

All about business

At a CIO Summit last week, the executive recruiter panel addressed how CEOs and other business leaders in search of a CIO are changing their perspective and ostensibly, their wish list. Instead of asking the executive recruiter to ‘get me one of these’ with specific technical or leadership skills, they are looking for CIOs with greater business knowledge about their industry…and the ability to apply that knowledge.

Similar to other IT roles where someone has a certification (ie: CCIE, MCSE, ITIL, CISSP), the certification itself brings little to no value without the ability to apply it. A CIO in title may only bring limited value without the applicability. For the CIO, this means quickly understanding the industry, company, customers and how the flow of money takes place.

Follow the Money

Key to starting is in understanding how the company makes money. How does the ecosystem of money flow both in, and out, of the company? Which departments or divisions are key to driving both top-line revenue and bottom-line expenses for the company. What attributes are critical in maintaining this ‘engine’ of commerce within the company? A successful CIO will clearly understand the process, the players and the levers of opportunity.

Partner

Partnering today means building a symbiotic two-way relationship that mutually benefits both parties. This means that the CIO must build critical relationships with fellow c-suite executives across the organization. In order to accomplish this, the CIO must be open-minded and collaborative in nature. Walking in with a closed-minded, technology-centric agenda need not apply. One must possess the ability to reach escape velocity from the daily grind. In addition, the language used in these conversations needs to shift from technology to business. For many, this means talking about money and how it applies to the executive(s) at the table. Applicability of the conversation is key to the success of the collaborative process. The CIO needs to lead this conversation, which may push them well outside their typical comfort zone.

Communicate

We have all heard the phrase: Communicate, communicate, communicate. But is it the right communication? More is not always better if it isn’t the right content. Part and parcel with the collaborative nature of the relationship, the CIO needs to clearly communicate their priorities and how they benefit the company and/or the specific executive’s priorities. In some case, the CIO’s objectives may not benefit the executive in question, but that doesn’t mean it should be omitted. There is a level of appreciation in understanding (and respecting) the CIO’s methods of prioritization among fellow executives. This leads the CIO to greater credibility and buy-in.

CIO = Career Is Over?

In a word: Hardly. The role of the traditional CIO is at a state of plateau. However, the role of the traditional CIO is just getting ramped up. The business-centric transformational CIO will thrive and succeed beyond the current expectations. One trend that exemplifies this is the appointment of CIOs to corporate boards of publicly traded companies. We can only expect far more opportunities from the CIO as the momentum of this evolution takes firm hold.

Cloud is now a boardroom discussion and more are requesting CIO adoption

Raising the stakes in a high priced game, interest in cloud computing is reaching beyond IT and lines of business to the board of directors. CIOs are increasingly being asked about their plans for cloud adoption. This comes alongside an already increasingly complex IT portfolio and strongly competing priorities. Change is needed.

Where does the buck stop on technology risk?

According to two Deloitte directors writing in USA Today, the 48% of enterprise boards of directors that have a risk committee may not be sufficient to meet the threat. Depending on the firm and the industry, more boards may be due to establish such a committee. More risk committees may need to recruit a cyber security expert. And more boards may need to establish a separate committee to deal with Internet and other technology threats. All boards may benefit from the engagement of more external experts to inform them on the risks to the firm of cyber crime and technology failure.

From critical infrastructure to intellectual property, regulatory compliance, and technological competitiveness, the risks of a technology-related failure to the assets and performance of the firm are ever growing. Many corporate management structures are inadequate for assuring risk mitigation, and it is the responsibility of the board to assure that management is aligned with corporate needs.

The authors of the piece don’t identify the responsibility of corporate managements to alert their boards to the risks for the company. For management to take such a message to the board, certainly without recommended action steps, may seem counter-intuitive to maintaining favor with the board. It is the responsibility of management, from CTO and CIO to CEO levels, to see that such a dialogue is successfully engaged. Brutally honest communication on the stakes involved may be the best opportunity management has to align the organization with its vital technology requirements.

Today in Connected Consumer

Facebook made big news in low-key way yesterday. It appointed COO Sheryl Sandberg to its board, making her the first woman to join the high-profile company’s highest echelon. The news was delivered by way of a 7 paragraph press release posted to the company’s newsroom blog. Given both Facebook’s profile, and Sandberg’s, the soft-pedaling struck some as odd. Part of the reason of the low-key approach may have been embarrassment, however. Facebook has been facing pressure since the run-up to its IPO from institutional investors and corporate governance watchdogs over the lack of diversity on its board, particularly over the previous complete lack of women. The news also came on the heels of the publication of “The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network,” written by former staffer Katherine Losse, one of the earliest female hires at the company, which contains a wealth of embarrassing details about the frat-house atmosphere at Facebook HQ, including the painfully awkward way CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Sandberg to the staff. Still, when you’re a public company with a market cap of nearly $100 billion you don’t bury that kind of news.

In one crucial way, Facebook is still a private company

Even after it goes public, Facebook will still be controlled single-handedly by CEO Mark Zuckerberg through a special class of stock and voting agreements. In other words, while you may own stock in the company, you will have virtually no say in what happens to it.

Apple names Levinson chairman, adds Disney chief to board

Apple today announced that Arthur D. Levinson, member of Apple’s board since 2005, will be the successor to Steve Jobs as Apple’s non-executive chairman. In addition, Apple has appointed Robert Iger, CEO and President of The Walt Disney Company to the board of directors.

Apple Board to Discuss Empty Seat

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple’s (s aapl) Board of Directors will meet Tuesday concerning the vacancy left by Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s departure. Schmidt resigned two weeks ago over potential conflicts of interest between Google and Apple.

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The Journal is also reporting — really, stating the obvious — that Apple COO Tim Cook tops the short list of candidates. Cook, who ran Apple’s day-to-day operations during Steve Job’s absence earlier this year, would be the second board member actually working the for the company. Looking at the current board, he seems like an excellent choice. Read More about Apple Board to Discuss Empty Seat

Eric Schmidt Not Paid By Apple, Just Took Some Souvenirs

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Former Apple (s aapl) Board of Directors member and current Google (s goog) CEO Eric Schmidt wasn’t paid for his time at Cupertino. This despite Apple’s habitual practice of offering stock options and a $50,000 retainer to Board members, both of which Schmidt declined during his tenure.

Instead, like other board members, Schmidt settled for some awesome Apple gear in exchange for his contribution to the board. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and BusinessWeek, the Google CEO accepted $8,712 worth of goods, though no specific breakdown of what sort of hardware that number actually represents has been reported. Read More about Eric Schmidt Not Paid By Apple, Just Took Some Souvenirs