The prime role of any commercial CIO, as for any member of the executive committee (exco), is to help the organisation generate more profit. Historically, many CIOs have focussed on efficiencies and cost reduction which impact the bottom line. The very best CIOs, however, focus more on value generation. Today, CEOs expect their CIOs to have the commercial acuity to recognise opportunities to introduce new technologies which will boost the top line.
Almost all new products and services hitting the market today are underpinned by technology, and that most CIOs are high-IQ, analytical problem solvers, this should play to their strengths. So how can CIOs move from delivering solutions suggested by their peers, to a highly prized creator of value?
Step one is clearly to understand your own company’s P&L and how it makes money – which product lines, geographies and markets are making revenue, and which are not sustainable. The CIO should be well-positioned to know which customers are profitable, since they have access to all the data on segmentation and, hopefully, they should have an interest in their current and would-be competitors and how they see the world. Would you be surprised to know that a fair few CIOs I have interviewed had clearly never given any of the above much thought? (For the record, that is an instant “get your coat” moment in an interview).
The CIO’s role in value creation
It’s never too late to learn about your business. Everyone likes to be considered an expert, so if you ask your CFO or marketing director for their insight, they will almost certainly be delighted to share it – after all, they cannot do their roles without you. As you learn more, you will feel more confident suggesting ideas on how to get from A to B quicker, and hopefully, come up with suggestions on new products or services. Many will revolve around better use of data or new technology such as IoT, AI, and robotic process automation and none of your peers will be able to scan the horizon as effectively as you to identify opportunities to create new revenue streams.