“IT can be really expensive and the CEOs, of course, are watching every penny and I think that’s where, as a CIO, if you articulate the value, you can really show the value of that investment, then it starts to change that opinion,” said Thompson. “You get more interest from a CEO when they see that there’s results that can be achieved by investing in IT.”
At Symantec, Thompson employs a multi-tiered review methodology made up of an IT Investment Board, which he chairs, an project management office and, inside of IT, an IT Steering Committee. Working together, these groups ensure that whatever new projects or IT investments under consideration are going to provide a monetary benefit to the company.
“What I’ve done is brought the business right into the loop of making the decisions of where our dollars in IT are going to spent.”
Scheuerman also agrees with a proactive, teach-them-and-they-will-see-the-light approach to improving IT’s visibility, impact and credibility within the c-suite.
“The challenge there for the CIO; he’s got to be a PR guy, he’s got to be a salesman and understand that’s part of the (job),” said Scheuerman. “He has to sell the fact that technology will in fact contribute to business strategy and he has to have ideas and he has to understand the business strategy in order to make that work. And I think there’s were most CIOs fail.”
While easy to say, this is not easy to do in practice, even Scheuerman admits. To take the proactive high-road, you have to understand the business, not just technology. You have to put yourself in others’ shoes and view IT and technology from their perspective, with an eye towards their concerns.
“In my view at least, the CIO job is the hardest executive job around because you have to know everything there is to know about the business and the strategy,” said Scheuerman. “And you have to know everything there is to know about technology and be able to link the two together and explain it to people who aren’t focused on it, and don’t care in some ways, and then turn around and translate this stuff to a bunch of geeks that work for you and say to them, ‘This is why were doing this and this is how were doing it’.”
But, if you can do this, you will find yourself among an elite and growing group of CIOs who are beginning to realize the ‘C’ in CIO means more than just a mastery of technology.
“As far as business performance,” said Symantec’s Thompson, “if the CIO views himself and treats himself and positions himself as a true executive in the company, then business performance should be a part of his job.”