Spending More Time with People or With Technology: The CIO’s Dilemma

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Should a CIO Focus More Energy into Technology or the People it Serves?

The CIO (Chief Information Officer) is traditionally the most senior executive responsible for a company’s Information Technology (IT). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the company’s technology is the CIO’s only focus. While the CIO is responsible for the overall technology strategy of the company, including putting into place risk mitigation plans and implementing new tech throughout business operations as smoothly as possible, the CIO is also responsible for making sure that technology serves the needs of the employees of the company and the departments they work in.

The CIO Should Not Stand Alone

One of the common misunderstandings concerning the role of a CIO comes from a general misunderstanding about the role of IT throughout the company. IT isn’t self-contained, nor is it limited to just the “IT department.” IT is like the body’s veins, circulating data throughout every department of the company. Without IT, your business would come to a screeching halt. Essentially, it’s the glue that holds your company together — especially as it becomes more and more dependent on the use of technology in order to succeed.

As such, the CIO shouldn’t be the only person making decisions regarding your company’s IT infrastructure. Although they may have the final word, it’s important that the CIO works closely with other C-level executives and leaders throughout the company to determine the company’s and employees’ IT needs.

C-Level Executives Need to Communicate

Because most businesses depend on their IT infrastructure on every level of the company, it’s extremely important that the CIO communicates with the IT directors as well as other C-level executives, such as the CTO (Chief Technology Officer). Larger businesses that have multiple locations will have multiple IT directors – but there will usually only be one CIO. This means that the IT directors are a valuable source of information about the company’s IT needs and challenges.

The CTO also plays a big part in the direction that a company’s IT strategy takes, although their specific duties vary from one business to the next. Whereas a CIO is more focused on the overall IT strategy and implementation of a business, the CTO is usually responsible for researching and finding innovative new technologies that could help the company reach its business objectives. Thus, the CTO’s information and opinions can have a big impact on the strategy the CIO has put into place, which is why a strong relationship between the two is beneficial to the company.

The CIO should also communicate regularly with the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) since the marketing efforts of any business depend greatly on the company’s IT solutions. For example, the most effective marketing strategies depend on your marketers’ ability to collect and analyze data.

Finally, the CIO should communicate regularly with the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) in order to make decisions regarding the IT budget, whether it’s discussing the need to expand the budget, implementing IT solutions that will help to save money over the long term, and more. For example, you might determine that your current software solutions are not cost-efficient long-term and that switching to an SaaS platform, while initially expensive, may help save a significant amount of money in the long run.

The CIO Needs to Align with Other Strategies

The IT strategy that a CIO develops and executes is extremely important to the operation of a company; however, it’s vital that they align that IT strategy with other strategies — namely, the company’s business strategy. It’s important because every department within your company depends on your IT infrastructure. So if your IT isn’t aligned with your other strategies, operations won’t be nearly as efficient or dynamic as they could be.

Consider your company’s business strategy. If your IT strategy doesn’t align with it, many of the IT solutions you implement may not address the requirements  needed to achieve your company’s business goals. Every aspect of your IT strategy should support the main goals and objectives of your business. Otherwise, IT is wasting resources and creating inefficiencies within your operations.

Another example would be your company’s marketing strategy. Marketing is heavily reliant on technology. Your marketing team, which most likely consists of web developers, programmers, content writers, graphic designers, and more, need specific IT capabilities to successfully execute your marketing campaigns.

Because of how much your business relies on IT in general, it’s extremely important that the CIO aligns their IT strategy with other strategies in the various departments throughout the company. Not only does strategic alignment help ensure everyone is working towards a common goal, it also helps make it easier to control and manage risk and compliance issues. This is why communication between the CIO and various department heads is such a key component of a successful IT strategy.

It’s People Using the Technology

In order to successfully align the company’s IT strategy with the business strategy, the CIO will need to know what is and isn’t working in your IT infrastructure and how it can be improved to increase productivity, improve customer engagement, and help to improve the quality, speed, and cost-efficiency of back-office operations.

While communicating and working together with department leaders is an important part of this, as CIO you should also work closely with the employees in each of those departments. There’s no better way to identify the specific needs of your employees than by talking to them in person, after all. They are the ones using the IT solutions your company has implemented in order to do their jobs, which means that they are the ones that can give you valuable insight into what they need to make their jobs easier.

Human Centric Tech Solutions

One of the keys to improving your IT infrastructure is to determine what the pain points in the operations of the company are. These pain points can only be identified by the company’s employees since they are the ones that are leveraging the company’s IT system to do their jobs. By identifying those pain points, you can find and implement the appropriate solutions as part of your IT strategy.

For example, your product development team may have difficulties communicating with one another, leading to bottlenecks on certain projects that result in constant delays. Identifying this issue will allow you to work on an IT solution that improves communication within departments. Or maybe your sales team and marketing team are having difficulties working together because they don’t have access to the same data. In such a case, finding a way to make your company’s data more accessible and useful to both departments should be a priority in developing your IT strategy.

It’s All About the Balance

The job of a CIO is to oversee the IT strategy of a company. While a big picture perspective is needed, it’s important that as a CIO you make sure that the IT solutions you are implementing help to address the actual problems and challenges of the employees working throughout the company. This requires regular communication with leadership throughout the company as well as with employees in every department so that you can successfully align your IT strategy with your business strategy. Essentially, a successful CIO needs to figure out a way to find a balance between focusing on existing and potential new technology with the people it serves.