CIO 2.0: The Chief Impact Officer

For CIOs, it’s both a challenge and an opportunity. Not all CIOs have the skills and desire to play at a higher level. There are no-brainer advantages to taking the initiative towards becoming the “chief impact officer” in strategic planning and business execution. You can better control the agenda and manage expectations, and build your reputation and career prospects. If you want to stake your claim on business turf, here are five key things to keep in mind.

1. Think big, but cover your, um … app.

To win big, the best CIOs think big. They map out and iterate on a comprehensive plan that accounts for all aspects of what it means to be a high-impact CIO. A top priority is to first “cover your app” by ensuring that the IT house is in order with demonstrable core competencies in operational stability and application and service portfolio management.

From there, you will have positioned yourself to open a collaborative dialogue with business leaders and start talking about such high-impact deliverables as single, reusable IT solutions that address problems common across multiple business units.

Your job is complicated, but do not make the mistake of telling everybody. They don’t care. While it is absolute that you must have a comprehensive plan that covers all the bases, it is also imperative that you communicate simply and in the language of your customers.

2. Get the lieutenants on board.

Don’t go it alone. Having business impact is not your job alone. It is the job of the entire senior IT management team and key customer facing IT staff. A vital and underappreciated aspect of making the transition to chief impact officer is to get your senior IT lieutenants decisively aligned with you.

It’s important to recognize that most mid-level and even senior IT personnel pay little attention to the business side (AMR Research found “company knowledge” and “industry knowledge” ranked least important among 21 IT skills in a recent study of 405 IT buyers).[1] The best CIOs use strong leadership skills to make it an IT team effort. Gather insights from your IT staff on hot-button issues that can grab the attention of business managers. Engineer a strategic communications plan that tasks IT managers with specific assignments. Use the same sort of IT best practices for monitoring and measurement of this business communications plan to gauge success and adapt as needed.

[1] AMR Research, “The IT Management Spending Report, 2007-2008,” January 2008.