Information, not technology – the CIO as a top table executive

Read the media, or speak to any number of so-called industry experts, and you will still hear the same line: the CIO needs to be more aligned with the needs of the business.

Now is the time for the use of such clichés to stop. If a CIO really isn’t engaged with the business, what on earth is the executive responsible for technology doing on a daily basis?

The answer is quite a lot, actually. What becomes clear is that CIOs do not spend hours talking of the need to spend more time with other functions because such connectedness is a given.

The context to this new level of interaction is change. Perceptions of technology within the business have altered rapidly over the past decade or so, shifting from being seen as a dark art that is best left to the geeks in the basement, to an essential backbone of business success that must be widely understood in order to create competitive advantage.

Such perceptions continue to alter on an almost daily basis, with the business forced to confront challenges across multiple technology fronts. These battlegrounds include cloud computing, social media and consumer technology.

But across all fronts, the CIO has to be in charge of one crucial component: information. Now, more than ever before, the executive responsible for business IT truly is the chief information officer.

For far too long, CIOs have been forced to justify the relevance of technology to the business. Brought into board level debates on an ad-hoc basis, IT leaders have then been asked to explain why spending on hardware and software is important.

More fool the business that still takes that closed approach. In comparison to other c-level executives, the CIO is the individual with the broadest view across all business functions. That great view across the enterprise should, in itself, be enough to guarantee the CIO’s regular seat at the top table.

But there is more. CIOs have long recognised what the rest of the business has only just started to comprehend; your success or failure as a modern organisation relies on your ability to understand data.

From structured data stored in stove pipes to unstructured data floating round on social media, successful businesses will be able to take data and create useful information that can help improve decision making and boost customer engagement.

The CIO, as the guardian of this information, is the person who will ensure data becomes useful knowledge that provides a business advantage. Now, then, really is your time.

The above editorial introduced the recently released summer edition of CIO Connect magazine

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