CIOs face an inflection point of influence

This is the opportunity for technology teams and leaders to move from supplier to advisor, with a brokerage role.

shutterstock 1562655172 cios face an inflection point of influence mark chillingworth

In 2010 CIOs were struggling with stakeholder management. The ensuing decade has done little to change this picture. Given the role technology has played in organisations since 2010, and of course, more recently, stakeholder management should no longer be an obstacle to business technology leadership, but like a monolithic slab of legacy technology, it continues to cast a shadow on CIOs and IT. 

A decade ago, CIOs in Germany, the USA and the UK were at the receiving end of increases in technology investment. The budget boosts came off the back of two difficult years following the banking crisis of 2008 to 2009. Germany, the USA and UK had economies that were returning to health, and in the case of Germany and the USA, that growth continued until Coronavirus brought the world economy to a standstill. As reported recently, CIOs around the world have received a 5% increase in median spending to counter the pandemic. 

That budget increase during the pandemic of 2020, and the technology successes delivered during lockdown should - must - be the light that banishes the issue of stakeholder management and influence from the enterprise IT community. A decade ago, the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey reported that “communication and influencing skills are the most important for advancement”. Rediscovering the 2010 report in the days leading up to beginning work on the IDG Connect article about the 2020 Harvey Nash CIO report, I was struck by how similar the trends were in these two reports, and therefore the challenges CIOs face. 

According to fellow search firm Savannah Group and its annual survey of technology leadership, stakeholder skills continue to be a challenge. The Savannah Group research finds that CIOs and IT are implementing technology that has the power to modernise organisations, but the change management required to deliver adoption and therefore, new business processes and culture is lagging.

Ironically, an invisible virus has dealt a blow to a myriad of outdated practices and demonstrated the value of cloud computing, digital signatures, remote working, reduced travel and, as you may have noticed, video conferencing. As a result, business technology leadership must seize the opportunity. Technologies and business practices that CIOs have advocated for this last decade have been proven to work. Enterprise cloud computing delivers not only the platform for resilience, but also greater efficiency. In the coming weeks and months, CIOs and IT will have to delicately communicate: ‘I told you so’ in a way that sees their department embraced as an advisory partner. Because this is the opportunity for technology teams to move from supplier to advisor, with a brokerage role. 

The good news is that over the course of the last decade, I have seen a growing number of CIOs and IT teams develop a strong ability to influence and manage the stakeholders of their organisations. Examples include:

Marketing - CIOs and CTOs are at the receiving end of an hourly barrage of marketing material. There cannot be too many other areas of the business that receive as many mail outs, invites, cold calls and ‘Sponsored LinkedIn messages’ as IT. Yet there are some core skills to marketing that are immensely powerful and can be harnessed to ensure that not only is new technology delivered, but change happens successfully as a result.  Major manufacturers have adopted a new culture using marketing methods, whilst travel and government organisations have used marketing partners to ensure rapid and disruption-free adoption of new technologies. 

Champions - one of the most subtle methods of delivering change I have seen is from CIOs and CTOs that have championed the careers, causes or teams of an organisation, that on first sight, have little to do with technology. Building alliances right across the organisation will strengthen the community within the business, and in the cases I have seen, increase the adoption and opportunity rate for technology led change. 

Storytelling - all too often in the modern enterprise, technology is missing from the narrative that is circulated to all members of the organisation. Newsletters, portals, videos, podcasts, whatever platform the business uses, make sure that technology and technologists are there and telling directly related or none-related stories.

Events - of course face-to-face events are a challenge during this time when it is vital to be socially distant. But Teams and Zoom have become the new stage for us moderators and our speakers, and so too must it be the spotlight in which to showcase technology. Again, I have seen organisations create ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, or themed series of events that bring wider communities together to discuss and share technology insight. 

In the CIO forum I chair, CIOs regularly call for shared help and advice on which vendors to work with. If business technology leadership is to shake off stakeholder management issues, now is the time to ask for advice, bring in marketing, storytelling and events expertise.