CIOs and business leaders need to get their priorities aligned

The recently published State of the CIO report includes some worrying results. Along with the oft-quoted fears about skills shortages and job security, there’s another area that gives cause for concern. CIOs and business leaders are often working towards different goals and there is a lack of understanding between them.

We’ll look at the details more closely, but first, let’s just spend a moment pondering the possible implications. Forgive our clumsy metaphor, but we’re talking about the captain trying to steer his ship on technology designed to fly an aircraft. Success will be limited, costs will escalate, frustrations and poor service are almost inevitable.

So, what’s going on?  Why aren’t we communicating more effectively? Why are we not pulling in one direction?

The what and the how

As usual, with something that looks quite simple, the devil is in the detail. Business leaders and CIOs can agree on what they want to achieve: growth, operating efficiency, a great customer experience, et cetera, but it’s in the how that the ideas diverge. Business leaders may favour technologies to improve the customer experience or transform the business processes. CIOs may see the way forward in data analytics or cloud computing.

There have always been barriers to communication between “techies” and wider management. Maybe this is due to something as simple as a reluctance to admit a lack of understanding and too much jargon. But why should a business leader be expected to keep up-to-speed with the detail of a rapidly evolving digital world alongside all his or her other responsibilities? With the support of the right CIO, the business leader should have all the information they need. It should be possible to have the meaningful dialogues that get priorities in alignment.

Different opinions

So far so good, but there’s another problem. Perception. CIOs rate their performance more highly than business leaders do. Let’s look at an extract of the survey’s stats regarding a new business initiative and the role that IT plays.

These numbers demonstrate that there’s a problem and it’s one that can have significant consequences. Where any business transformation project is being considered, communication and understanding are essential. We should not allow barriers between CIOs, their IT teams and other management to undermine success.Perhaps even more worrying is the 10 per cent of business leaders who said that their CIO presented so many objections to a technology that there was little chance of achieving success. Or those who saw IT as a “rogue player” pressing ahead with their own technology decisions.  IT is also often seen as the team to blame when others fail to meet their own targets.

We don’t underestimate the challenges, but if you want to pick the key takeaway from the State of the CIO report, surely it is this: CIOs must prioritise improving their relationship with the rest of the business.

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