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A CIO's executive role has become fundamental within the business strategy.

Digital leaders are now taking the steps to become strategic business partners with 78% of CIOs expecting their influence to grow within the organisation, according to Gartner.

The trend has marked a chance for CEOs to form a partnership with their CIO increasing opportunities for the organisation. CIO UK looks at how the CIO- and CEO's relationship is increasing to form a business partnership. (See also: CIO tips on partnerships with vendors)

CIO and CEO partnership: Blurring of roles

According to the 2016 CIO 100 edition, 56% of CIOs are now reporting directly to their CEO, an increase for the third consecutive year.

However as reporting lines are clear there is often a blurring of roles within an organisation. In setting defined roles a CIO and CEO can work together to build on their skill sets and experience for further opportunities in the company.

The building of the relationship between the two roles will add an insight into one another’s careers, with the CIO using their digital leadership with a CEO’s business mind-set.

A CIO’s role has transitioned from managing IT to hiring staff, managing resources and budgets, while a CEO will oversee all operations and strategy in the business.

As IT is only part of the overview, Chief Executive Officers need to communicate effectively with their CIO. This will help the CEO to gather information on the IT department when reporting to stockholders.

CEOs should value their CIOs in using their business leadership skills to help build a stronger partnership in bridging IT with the rest of the company. And CIOs can help CEOs by giving them the digital tools and strategies to digitally transform their organisation. 

CIO and CEO partnership: Challenges in partnership

In some organisations, communication has remained a difficulty for CIOs trying to influence change.

Chief Executive Officers often deal with several responsibilities and business departments and so don't have a great understanding of IT. This can lead to a breakdown in relationship with a CIO, in finding time to communicate with the CEO.

As businesses rely more on technology, executives need to sharpen their IT skills and knowledge to understand the challenges and opportunities of the IT function.

In developing IT skills, CEOs can align technology with the company in working towards a shared business goal and further opportunities.

CIO and CEO partnership: Collaboration

In collaborating together CEOs should give their CIOs a key role in developing strategic plans.

CIOs should be placed on executive tables to provide insight into company decisions while CEOs should attend monthly IT meetings updating and communicating on the latest digital developments.

Having a better engagement with a CEO can support and encourage ideas and opportunities for the organisation, and CIO Steve Homan has seen his role become more aligned with his CEO at DMG Media.

“I am working closely with the CEO to help define our future products and roadmaps,” he said. “I am also playing an instrumental role in the work to transform parts of the group to become product-centric in thinking and delivery.”

CIO Homan is currently delivering a “major revenue-enhancing” project which will be expected to roll out before the end of the year. The project will see the CIO communicate effectively with his CEO in delivering innovation for the media company.

“It all starts with trust, which you earn. If you have it, then it is a natural dialogue that happens through wide ranging one-to-one debates with the CEO and board execs. The key to it is to be absolutely clear that tech is there as a partner and what our current focus areas are and why, he said.”

A CIO's role has become in demand from keeping up technology and customers. The growing expectation has seen CEOs rely on their CIOs more to deliver a customer-focused business strategy.

In forming a partnership between the CIO and CEO, this can help deliver change for meeting customer expectations, increasing skill sets and a better overview of the company’s infrastructure. (Read next: How CIOs can build relationships outside of IT)