CIO 2.0: The Chief Impact Officer

Drive improvements in customer satisfaction. Decrease cost of goods sold. Validate end-to-end business processes. Create internet-based revenue opportunities. These are high-impact mandates, but who should lead the charge?

A recent Gartner report on the evolution of CIOs toward a greater strategic business role should strike either anxiety or inspiration in the heart of any good chief information officer, because these responsibilities may soon be on the plates of more CIOs.

In a survey of 1,500 CIOs, Gartner found that 85 percent of them “see business expectations of IT taking a big leap in 2008 … CIOs are now expected to deliver the solutions that make the enterprise different in a way that matters to company performance and customer satisfaction,” Gartner said in January 2008.[1]

In other words, the ideal of CIOs becoming key players in the business arena is taking shape. Call it CIO 2.0 — the evolution of the IT czar into the role of “chief impact officer.” Call it the SCIO — the strategic CIO. But whatever you call it, the transformation is inevitable.

Why? Because the CIO is uniquely positioned to understand the full business, including all its moving parts, from an enterprise-wide perspective. Along with the CEO and CFO, most CIOs interact with executives and managers in each line of business and functional unit, be it finance or supply chain or customer service. CIOs enjoy a panoramic view that spans a corporation, and if a business isn’t taking advantage of a CIO’s reach and vision, it could be wasting a wealth of opportunities and insights.

World-Class CIOs Deliver the Best of Both Worlds

A high-impact CIO is distinguished by an ability to both achieve operational excellence and contribute materially to business strategy and execution. It can be a fine line. For instance, a CIO may have excelled at aligning IT and business, but remains an order-taker — even if he or she may privately gripe about business tactics or strategy.

Today’s most innovative and successful CIOs have taken the lead to contribute their ideas on strategic planning, supported by their expertise in the technologies and business processes can make or break enterprise performance.

Harrah’s Entertainment CIO Tim Stanley (InformationWeek’s 2007 CIO of the Year) is an excellent example of an IT leader who has proactively influenced business strategy and performance with customer data management systems that contribute substantially to bottom-line growth for the Las Vegas-based gaming enterprise.

Meanwhile, some forward-looking companies are tasking CIOs with greater business responsibilities. Northrop Grumman, for example, asked its CIO to be more “strategic” and “transformational” and look for new ways that IT could help drive revenue. One result: A $500 million contract to supply wireless services to New York City municipal agencies.[2]

[1] Gartner, “Gartner EXP Worldwide Survey of 1,500 CIOs Shows 85 Percent of CIOs Except ‘Significant Change’ Over Next Three Years,” news release, January 23, 2008.

[2] The Wall Street Journal, “CIO Jobs Morph from Tech Support into Strategy,” February 20, 2007.