There is no better time to be a CIO than now. If there is one role in the executive suite that will have impact in the next five years it is that of the IT leader.

PWC put out a study which said that the top five concerns of CEO are: Security, Analytics, Mobility, Cloud and IoT (Internet of Things). They are ALL technology related. If this isn’t a huge opportunity for the CIO, then I don’t know what is! 

CIOs have the ability to drive both the top and bottom lines of an organization – we just have to take the opportunity that currently presents itself, get our ideas out, and be effective players in the leadership team. It’s all about adding value and the art of the possible.

This article addresses what CIOs can do about the top line.

How IT Leaders Drive the Top Line – Grow the Business

My fundamental premise is that the objective of any business is to find and keep customers. Yes – this needs to be done profitably, etc., but I want to keep it simple for now. I know there are nuances to each sector; finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and technology are often very different, so please forgive me if all the thoughts don’t apply to you, but some will. Here they are - in no particular order:

Find Customers

matrix_your_existing_products_existing_marketsThink about where you can add value using the simple matrix: Your Existing Products in Existing Markets (on the left), and expanding from there.

Spend time with customers. Talk to clients and your counterpart CIOs to understand their challenges. You are not coming into these discussions with a salesman card, but you can be really useful to your organization if you are listening to the customer and know your own business. I know that Rich Adduci of Boston Scientific has been sending his IT staff to customers – to develop new products.

Eat your own lunch/drink your own champagne. Many IT departments are test beds for their company’s new products – and then become key in selling those products externally. Particularly true for tech companies (maybe not so effective for restaurant or winery business – pun intended!!). If you don’t do this, see if there is a way to get on the revenue generating side of the business, so you are not just a cost center.

Develop analytics capability. This can uncover real value – see matrix above – and the fact that it is one of the top 5 concerns for the CEO further drives its importance. There is a lot of talk about how the CMO and CIO are at odds, and this may be the case if you are not leading. Go to the CMO, show what analytics can do for product, revenue stream enhancement, customer analysis, predictive behavior, and cost containment etc. The opportunities are enormous.

Big Data. Kind of the same point as above, but not quite. The above point was “Small Data” and many companies still have to figure out what to do with what they have. Get the architecture right, and then select a decent analytics partner. Once Small Data is conquered then move to Big Data. There is a strong tie to IoT here, and you should be talking to your SLT about the “art of the possible” in this and other areas.

Mobility. Many customers want the option of dealing with you from their smart devices. This is a great opportunity for IT to be a leader in tapping into new revenue streams. This is one of the five things your CEO is concerned about according to PWC, so the door is wide open!

Social. A lot is being written about how social business can drive both the top and bottom line. There are some amazing ways that social platforms are impacting organizations; because this is the way people get stuff done. One example: crowd sourcing new product development is becoming popular because it is so effective; it is exactly what your customers want, and crowd sourcing your helpdesk/customer support can be just as effective!

cio_career_tipsBe thoughtful about how you participate in acquisitions. Many organizations need to grow by acquisition, and the IT leader can have key strategic input in explaining (or motivating) how an acquisition can be synergistic from a product and market perspective. You will need to integrate the company being acquired – so think that part through clearly as well. Put a playbook in place.

Be a key facilitator around innovation. Depending on the nature of your organization you are either a key driver of this, or need to create the environment to allow innovation to take place. Much of today’s innovation is technology enabled – so you need to know your industry, understand the drivers impacting it, and then create a world that fosters innovation. This is a big topic, and one for another time, but there are two potential paths to success: bottom up or top down.

Keep Customers

Execute. Get the right platforms in place – then harmonize and leverage business processes to deliver to customers in the most effective way. More on this below.

Work across the business to ensure speed. Some pundits want to rename the CIO – Chief Acceleration Officer – silly perhaps, but the concept behind the name is excellent. Velocity is really important.

Customer service. IT can play a key role – using technology. Figure out how you can make IT a strategic weapon in the delivery of customer service.

Continuous product and quality improvement. Through automation, analytics, innovation, etc.

Reduce cost – customers expect it.

Ensure you are secure. If you lose valuable data it is often high profile and can negatively impact your business – you can lose a lot of customers. Your CEO is concerned, but so is the Board. Many top CIOs I know are spending 30 – 40% of their time on this issue right now.

The constant question the CIO should ask in both finding and keeping customer should be this – how can I add value?


Copyright © 2013-present BlueSteps, Inc. All rights reserved. Executive Career Services | Job Placement Firms & Recruitment Agency