An increasing number of CIOs is being invited into the C-suite, with 78% of CIOs expected to be on the board by the end of 2016, according to Gartner. This is because CEOs increasingly see the CIO role as strategic rather than transactional. 

Technology is seen to be at the heart of the enterprise, with the CIO's role now pivotal in driving success. Thus more CIOs are making it to the executive level.  A CIO should take advantage of this new opportunity to be a strategic player, through regular meetings and presentations in the boardroom showing how they can transform the organisation's strategy.

A platform for change in the C-suite

Businesses are increasingly creating multiple senior IT roles including such roles as the CDO, CSO and CIO.  This diversity in IT roles can result in CIOs losing track of IT spending which can lead to a restrictive budget on IT.

Communicating to the directors, when a CIO presents to the board, is a good chance to network and become familiar with the C-suite. Generally a C-suite takes risks based on projected revenues and budgets. A CIO's role is to implement business opportunity, through business skills, in connecting technology to strategy in creating value.  

The role of a CIO has evolved from an old IT operating model, supporting business needs through software and hardware. Now CIOs are business thinkers creating opportunities in the market, being in charge of which technology and products are being used for their organisation. They take a strategic look at technology analysis reports and technology trends, getting ahead of fellow competitors, something which C-suite executives can struggle with. 

Successfully dealing with the unique issues CIOs face, being involved with non-strategic tasks and learning business skills as the role evolves, is essential for the CIO making their way into the C-suite.

Making way for new technology

The 2016 Harvey Nash survey revealed 31% of companies are now investing in cloud.

The University of Nottingham have deployed a private cloud which will have the ability to deal with the demand of the university.

CIO of the university, Lucy Burrow, discusses how the trend for cloud has seen her role become more strategic in the boardroom.

She said “we as a group (the board) are really able to influence the direction of the organisation in being a collaborative approach”.

The modernisation of the programme has enabled the university to reach sufficient “maturity and capability” to make the transition from public to private cloud. The board’s understanding of the product has also benefited the on-going demand for technology.

She continues “we are very much learning from each other with the process. It is a very positive time to be a CIO”.   

Building a relationship with the board

A good relationship between the CIO and board is fundamental, with both learning from each other. A CIO has a unique view of business operations and by finding the correct way to communicate this can lead to valuable insight.  Regular meetings and presentations with the C-suite, with 56 percent of CIOs reporting directly to the CEO in a recent survey, can develop leadership skills in connecting business and IT goals.

Simplifying the view of risk and opportunities, avoiding jargon and heavy IT information, can  help get the CIO get a seat at the executive level.  Investment in IT is crucial for the CIO, being a make or break situation for their career.  Developing a relationship with the board allows the CIO to increase the board's understanding of IT, allowing the CIO to have more influence on business strategy. This in turn allows the IT function to be less of a support resource and more of a transformative influence.

The role evolvement has seen IT budgets increase to 45% in shaping technology, according to the recent Harvey Nash survey.

CIO 100 Bill Wilkins at First Utility has implemented smart metering solutions to its UK customers. Wilkins role has selected the new technology believing it will transform the energy market and value to the corporation.

He said “over the last 8 years my role has seen short attention spans from customers and technical professions. First Utility is efficient in reinventing themselves in following this trick enabling growth and investment for new technologies”.

First Utility has seen a change moving from an IT and profit focus to a convenience one in improving its customer service.

He continued “it became very fast to keep up with adding 300,000 customers a year. The CIOs influence in the C-suite has enabled me to be experimental with the products i have implemented. The board is willing to take risks and invest in new technologies”.

The recent trend of CIOs joining the C-suite is an important step for the enterprise with a recent report showing 40% CIOs being responsible for digital transformation. The new CIO is taking on additional opportunities in establishing technology in the C-suite through strategic plans and recognising technology as the forefront of the enterprise.