The CIO's responsibilities have grown in both strategy and leadership, with more CIOs than ever now reporting directly to the CEO. The 2018 CIO UK 100 survey put this figure at 53% of CIOs, while 14% reported to a CFO and 15% to a Chief Operating Officer.
More promising still, 83% responded that they were part of their organisation's executive leadership team. However, just 29% of CIOs said they were full board members at their organisation.
Even if they are not on the board, 51% of CIOs meet with their CEO at least once a week, with the rest engaging in daily catch-ups (10%), meetings multiple times a week (13%), or weekly meetings (28%).
Without board representation, what are the best ways CIOs can influence board members to communicate digital strategy? Read on for some of our tips on how CIOs can use their influence and leadership skills to influence the board.
Educate the board
One challenge for CIOs is how to communicate changes in both technologies and digital strategy to executives and board members. To help the board understand more complex technologies it might be useful to plan seminars or education sessions, helping C-suite execs to become comfortable with the concepts underpinning digital strategy.
To marry digital to the overall business CIOs should frame ideas for projects and new technologies they are looking to develop in user-centric terms.
It may also be beneficial to attend talks, meetings or networking events to better understand how to lead success at their own organisation and become more engaged with issues surrounding digital. Wider community engagement can also help board members stay up to date with the most innovative emerging tech that might not otherwise be on their radar.
IT budgets are increasing almost universally, with 89% of companies in a 2017 CIO survey set to either maintain or increase their tech spend in the following year. This indicates that CIOs are shouldering an ever-increasing amount of responsibility within their organisations.
It also shows that CEOs and other board members are aware of the revenue-growing potential of IT investment. CIOs can use this to their advantage, as they will be closely involved in decisions of where to allocate this additional digital funding. They can also use the opportunity to clearly communicate how this extra investment will be put to good use by the IT department - especially in terms of outcomes.
How could changing the consumer-facing technology help the customer experience - and what effect could that have for the business? Or how would allocating budget for an internal IT refresh improve productivity? Tightening security systems and processes is more abstract to illustrate but there are countless examples of reputation management for handling a data breach well or badly.
Communicate digital vision
Sometimes CIOs may face difficulties in communicating the potential of new technologies to the board. CIO 100 member James Robbins at Northumbrian Water has used drones to map the network, and experimented with augmented reality for customer bills. He said: "The biggest challenge for me is not the new technology but ensuring we connect it with the business problem."
Sometimes it might be necessary to adapt your language in order to more effectively engage with C-Suite executives, who may not be well-versed in complex technical terms or obscure technological concepts. This is something that NHS Blood and Transplant Chief Digital Officer, Aaron Powell is aware of, who told CIO: "The best analogies that I can use that make sense with my board are the analogies that fit the medical language that they're using on a day to day basis because that's the context that we work in.
"I talk about IT infrastructure in the ways that we would talk about, for example, organ transplants and talking about replacing the heart in something or replacing the kidneys, or looking at the arteries that might be taking blood from one part of the body to another."
The way CIOs speak about digital strategy should mirror the organisation’s core strategy, by returning to the mission statement. "I think the number one tip I could give you for influencing the board is making sure that whatever you're doing, you're remembering what the organisation is there for," says Powell. "Because that's what it's all about."