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As technology advances, CIOs are taking a direct approach to making digital a team sport. (See also: Why today's CIO is an integral part of the C-suite.) 

According to PwC, 47% of CIOs feel they add value to the business, with CIOs now taking the opportunity to teach board executives the word 'digital'. CIOs are in an ideal position to influence executives on the technical changes that are being made at the company.

Here we look at comments from the 2017 CIO 100 executives on how they are communicating IT to the board and improving digital literacy within their organisations. (Read next: How a CIO can use influence and leadership skills to communicate technological change to the board.

"Building an understanding of digital has been done by using two key tactics. The first is building an enthusiasm for the art of the possible, and the second is by building an understanding of what digital solutions can deliver. Simple solutions can build enthusiasm. Involving the board of the organisation in decisions about the type of local infrastructure available, working with the board to move towards a paper-light board meeting, and creating infrastructure and solutions for greater collaboration powered by digital have all increased the degree of technology literacy and perhaps more importantly the enthusiasm for digital."
Richard Corbridge, HSE Ireland’s former CIO and CEO


"The London market insurance industry is a relatively late adopter of modern technology. Numerous modernisation programmes have made little progress and there was cynicism both within Lloyd’s and the market about whether the TOM could be delivered. As the primary sponsor for the TOM within Lloyd's, my role includes communicating the benefits of digital transformation to the Lloyd's board and to the market that finances the initiative. There is now far greater understanding at board level throughout the market both of the threats of digital disruption and the efficiency and customer service benefits offered by digital modernisation.

"We achieved this early on by holding 117 meetings with businesses CIOs, COOs and technology boards, and 28 events for 1,260 market participants to explain how the modernisation programme would work and to get their views. This communication and engagement continues actively throughout the programme."
Shirine Khoury-Haq Lloyd's of London COO


"In general in local authorities, IT is viewed in a very traditional way as a technical skill and there is a real challenge in getting visibility. We have created an end-to-end strategy called Connecting Thurrock which has looked not just at what we are delivering in terms of our data centre but then moving it up on our frontline services to then how it's supporting the community and turning our technology into a frontline infrastructure service. That has really started to get some momentum and we have started to get colleagues engaged and certainly, the chief executive is very much behind it.  Digital and IT is very much seen as a key component in making that agenda."
Murray James Thurrock Council's Head of IT


"I am a management board member, so I have access to the rest of the directors and our CEO. My role is to provide insight into digital trends, innovation and business growth opportunities. We are now quite a digitally savvy company, and this approach is now embedded into all departments of the business.

"I have to constantly provide input on digital and technology in terms of education as this is not a one-time approach but a constant discussion point that needs to be assessed strategically and tactically, especially as the business changes."
Fatima Zada, Harvey Nichols' Group Technology and Innovation Director


"I consistently work with the CEO, the plc and executive boards, and our divisional boards to ensure that the digital message and the broader exploitation of the technology agenda are understood. Communicating what it can mean for them, their customers, suppliers and the community at large is front and centre of our thinking.

"I take the various business change activities across the group and categorise them into stories that can be easily understood by the boards. I am also sharing collateral – be it a view of the cyber-threat landscape, Harvard insights into culture, innovation ideas via different audio and video media – to help improve their understanding of technology and its potential."
Darryn Warner, Interserve's CIO


"I have created two critical organisational teams since I joined, both of which are now part of the management board team structure and form part of our ongoing governance model of running the organisation, with the CEO sitting on both teams:

  1. Information security steering group: I set this up in the first three months of joining after reviewing where we were on the infosec roadmap. The steering group is 80% of the management board of Brussels Airlines and is a mandatory monthly meeting. It has opened eyes to the current level of maturity in information security and is now the group that is authorising spend and priority on the three-year programme that is now in place.
  2. Digital innovation board: This team has been set up in recent months to address the need to raise awareness of the digital agenda within the airline and highlight that digital does not just mean the website. We have regular meetings mapped out in the diary throughout 2017, with guest speakers and technology demos to highlight the art of the possible. Strands of the IT strategy are being played out through this critical board."
    Simon Lamkin, Brussels Airlines' CIO

"The digital competencies have been a strong start here. We have also run an extremely popular 'being digital' presentation to every single department, trying to explain what we see in the digital strategy team as key for us as individuals but also the company as a whole to play a role in a fast-changing world. The presentation has been popular, and we've run it for a number of organisations in the health space within the UK as well as at meet-ups and other events."
Sharon Cooper, BMJ's Chief Digital Officer


"I think already given the nature of Dentsu there is a lot of people in the organisation that are very strong with digital skills, we have a lot of offerings in the various brands and companies in the group offering digital services. The good news is we already have good knowledge and what I hope to do is continue to share to an exec level new opportunities as they arise. I think a key part of my role will be a radar for all of those new opportunities, what are the things we should embrace and create products around? As we also pursue lots of technology-enabled programmes and deal with lots of issues such as cybersecurity, GDPR we make sure that we can translate the challenges into opportunities that executives can understand."
Dominic Shine, Dentsu Aegis Network's CTO


"I am a member of the most senior management boards in my organisation. We run informational sessions and workshops, and I personally engage with key clinical stakeholders on a regular basis to communicate our digital strategy at all levels.

"We actively undertake quarterly staff satisfaction surveys using an independent external agency to gauge our progress. I regularly meet with my board to articulate in non-technical terms what our digital plans are. I actively engage with the wider community, patients and governors too."
Dr Zafar Chaudry, Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's former CIO


"The influencing tends to come from individual relationships. I spend a significant amount of my working week in one-to-ones with our C-suite and heads of department. This allows me to understand their needs/issues and to shape solutions to drive change.

"One specific example would be the efforts to drive greater understanding of data protection and the impact of the club. This has involved work at every level, from my agreeing with my CEO the level of priority we should accord to this, down to my team training every single user as to the impacts of the DPA, and what it means for day-to-day behaviour. In areas where there is a lower appreciation of technology, this requires more time and closer relationships.
Hywel Sloman, Arsenal FC's IT Director


"Since becoming CIO I have taken the deliberate decision not to present our IS strategy in the traditional dry format to the Oxfam GB leadership team. Instead I have opted for a more visual approach and one which is aligned to Oxfam's core objectives and values.

"I took the approach of 'you said xyz and we delivered xyz', playing back messages to reflect how we have integrated IT strategy into the broader business one. My approach is more about the experience – the 'look and feel' of our IT delivery – and has received positive responses from the leadership team, who are largely non-IT specialists."
Amber Burke, Oxfam’s CIO


"I think it is something I have been trying to get across over the last 18 months when I was director for change and digital. I have started to bring the IT debate, technologies and assets together as a debate rather than technology as a cost-centre service provider.

"I think what we have done well is start to demonstrate some of the innovations that are out there on the market and how we can use them for ourselves. For example, I had a great conversation with the board last year around the challenges from a security and authentication perspective and as a consequence of that I came up with ideas around a new biometric type of innovations that allow us to make sure that we are really clear and certain that we are engaging with our customers.

"I think it is going to be a long played conversation but I think the early signals are moving forward with the understanding in the last 18 months and they are really prepared to move with this debate. It is really fascinating because we are now starting to have conversations at board level around AI, robotics and as a growth bank."
Martyn Atkinson, Metro Bank’s CIO


"In a world where we are pushing digital communications, there is a need for face to face too. We ran a roadshow where the CEO and senior management team toured the offices communicating the changes ahead in terms of our ambition to reach that additional one million young people and the role of digital technology within that.

"A network of digital champions throughout our business has been created to communicate and lead our digital change programme at ground level. We have also implemented Skype Broadcast to enable regular communications to the wider business, which has been very well received."
David Ivell, Prince's Trust CIO