CIO 2.0: The Chief Impact Officer

3. Seed business role for IT throughout the organization.

Getting your senior IT managers on board gives you a powerful catalyst to evangelize a greater business role for IT across all levels of an organization — at both the C level as well as with their key influencers. Impact is not achieved merely by one great presentation to one key decision maker. It is achieved by mobilizing multiple levels and places in the organization. You’ll plant seeds throughout the mid-level enterprise that, if properly cultivated, will percolate up to the top.

Rely on tried-and-true principles of change management — success requires involvement and communication with multiple levels of an organization. Turn IT meetings with mid-level business managers into broader discussions about IT as well as the business strategy that technology underpins. These cross-pollination brainstorming sessions will both win you converts with executives and influencers, while also broadening your perspective and vision on how IT can more intimately and forcefully drive business excellence.

4. Build business skills and industry expertise.

Truly strategic CIOs cultivate a genuine and abiding interest in business operations. The better you understand various financial models of business units, the cost and revenue challenges that managers face, and competitors and industry, the more likely you are to succeed. Invest in training, conferences, or whatever it takes to build your business savvy. Demonstrate business knowledge and credibility to skeptical business counterparts. Convincing them that you offer innovative insights into improving efficiency and driving revenue will result a spot at the leadership table.

5. Recognize risks and limitations.

Transitioning into a role as chief impact officer is not without its risks. If you expand your influence, you also expand your exposure to criticism and career damage. It’s essential to weigh and manage those risks and hone the political skills necessary to survive in what can be treacherous waters. Choose your battles wisely and be sure that you’re endorsing IT solutions that truly meet your organization’s needs, rather than a hot new technology that’s generating a lot of industry buzz.

Similarly, you’ll need to understand the limitations of what your organization can or even wants to achieve. It’s not for the faint of heart, and a fair number of CIOs will choose to remain beneath the radar until if and when they’re prodded or pulled into more business-side involvement.

But in most cases, opportunities are abundant, and the rewards (satisfaction of greater impact, more funding for IT, and maybe a higher salary) can be great. You might even be playing Sunday morning golf with the board of directors. It’s all about thinking less about ERP and start thinking more about EPS.

Hank Leingang has more than20 years of experience leading major operational and strategic changes in companies by leveraging information technology. A former CIO at Viacom and Bechtel Group, Inc., Hank is presently the president and CEO of ITM Software and a member of its board of directors. Prior to joining ITM Software, Hank was president and CEO of ThinkLift, a business and IT strategy consulting firm.