Kevin Hart was named chief executive officer of Segra, one of the nation’s largest independent fiber network companies, following an 11-year tenure as executive vice president and chief product and technology officer for Cox Communications. Hart’s journey from CIO to CEO is a story of intention and grit, with an equal focus on lifting others as he’s climbed. It’s also an example of the unique strengths technology leaders bring to the top job when they combine their technical, operational, and transformational expertise with strategic, innovative leadership to grow the business.

On a recent episode of the Tech Whisperers podcast, Hart, who also served as CIO at both Clearwire and Level 3 Communications, shared his journey to the CEO role and the leadership principles and mindset that have served him so successfully along the way. We also discussed his dedication to elevating those around him by developing and mentoring countless CIOs and technology leaders over the years.

After the show, we spent some more time talking about why he is so intentional about growing leaders, his advice for building a world-class IT leadership team, and how he sustains a high-performance, high-engagement culture. What follows is that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Dan Roberts: With 50 CIOs who’ve been through the program you put together called CIO University, and the countless other leaders who’ve benefitted from your mentoring and teaching, you have a proven track record when it comes to developing successful leaders. What core values or key pillars guide you?

Hart: First is having clarity of vision. You have to paint the vision — and realize that different people connect with different forms. Some of it’s going to be verbal, but some could be graphical, some could be experiential. It’s about illustrating the vision for people in ways that they can connect with.

You also have to understand what business you’re in, how your company makes money, how people thrive, and how they connect with their communities, their customers, and employees — and then translate that down to individual people’s roles. How do they help the company be successful? Too many people don’t understand what makes your company tick, and that’s a problem. So that’s always been a big part of CIO University, and it’s just my philosophy in general. Get people up to speed, give them a little mini-MBA on how your company operates.

Teamwork is another pillar. Everyone says it, but you have to actually enable it. You have to reward people for teaming. You have to provide them feedback if they’re not teaming to make sure they’re collaborating and sharing best practices, because more likely than not, these functions are interdependent. They’re codependent on one another upstream or downstream. So you’ve got to have a passion for teamwork.

You’ve also got to believe in what you’re doing. If you don’t, then stop doing it because it’s not worth the effort. You’ve got to believe you’re doing something good, and you have to have the passion to do it. Coupled with that is perseverance. You’re going to have some tough days and setbacks. You’re going to have some outages. You’re going to have some vendor failures. You’re going to have some stakeholders who don’t believe you can get the job done. But you have to overcome until you get there.

Honesty and trust are also essential, and you build them by being transparent. Tell people what you know. Tell people what you don’t know. And then go find out what you don’t know. And then go make it happen.

Last, but not least, pay for performance, or help individuals achieve their professional success, because it’s not always about money. Sometimes it’s about recognition, new opportunities, or just feeling like a valuable part of the team.

Those are some of the values that guide me that I share with my team. I’m sure I’m not perfect, but I try to put those into motion, because I think your behavior and your actions speak a lot louder than a poster on the wall.

When it comes to teamwork, what’s your advice to CIOs who have a team they need to turn around? Where do they begin?

First and foremost, as the leader, you have to believe. You have to set the tone around optimism. And you get people to continue to believe when you interject realism: ‘Guess what, folks, we’re not as good as we think we are in certain areas, and to become best in class, we’re going to have to improve. We’re going to have to make investments. We’re going to have to get the CEO of that vendor on the phone once a week until we get that solution put in place.’

You have to recognize even minor victories along the way but not get too distracted, because you’ve got more to accomplish, and there are going to be some steep hurdles to overcome. And you need to get your team and your leaders to believe. Build that strong sense of belief that we can become the best, we can do it, and we’re going to build on our success. Even if you don’t believe 100%, you have to act like you believe 100% until you get there.

Do that and the next thing you know, you’ll be beyond where you set your goals because of that belief, the force multiplier effect of the optimism of the team, the collective talents of the team, and just that passion, perseverance, and winning culture that celebrates success along the way. Because success breeds success.

What are some of the things you do as a leader to make sure people are able to do their best work every day? How do you create that culture and sustain it?

We have a weekly cross-functional meeting with the top leaders in the company where we go through every major function, every major KPI, and we talk about our successes, and we talk about our challenges. I’m able to learn a fair amount from that and ask pretty decent questions and also bring solutions to the team.

I think when the leadership is modeling the behavior, it shows that we are a team. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get to where we need to be, and we’re going to help each other out. That breeds camaraderie and teamwork and a can-do spirit as opposed to people feeling like they need to cover their bases or just look out for themselves.

What motivated you to invest time and money into leadership development and CIO University? What’s the ROI on that?

As every good team leader or coach knows, you’re only as good as the players on your team. If you go back 10 or 20 years ago, a lot of the really proficient technology leaders weren’t necessarily as astute in terms of business acumen, so they got a lot of pushback from CFOs around the cost investments. I thought, why don’t we build a bridge between our stakeholders and educate our teams on things like what it means to hit your quarterly revenue or EBITDA numbers, what it means when you’re trying to generate free cash flow, etc., so that we can walk in their shoes and, in turn, do a better job delivering to benefit them and us.

A lot of it was around communication, personality types, and business acumen. I started getting feedback from my stakeholders like, ‘It’s working. Your team is actually listening and they’re compromising to find win-win solutions that can move the business forward.’

I also created something called the value meter that captures revenue growth, cost reduction, and vendor cost optimization. I had one instance a few years ago that generated $1.4 billion in cost savings, cost avoidance, or revenue enablement. When you sit down with the CFO or stakeholders and talk about the financial problems of the company, and you deliver solutions that contribute to the financial success of the company, that gets their attention. You can only do that if you have a team that understands how the business operates and can communicate, connect, and deliver to benefit the growth of the company. Those are just a couple of examples of how I know that the investment in your team pays off.

You’re also trying to build a great workplace. I’ve taken over teams in the past with engagement scores and employee NPS scores that were below average for the company. Because of the communication skills of the leaders that we were fostering and investing in, those scores, in most instances, had increased to be at par or at the top of the company. Employees like to communicate with their supervisors and be heard and provide input.

Fundamentally, most of technology is about people, so investing in your leaders to help them enable others to rise to the occasion is definitely a worthwhile value proposition.

Your CIO, Rose Chambers, told me that one of your biggest assets is that you listen before speak. Does that come from your consultant training?

I think so. When you show up as a consultant, you’re not there to tell them how great you are; you’re there to help them solve their problems. You’re asking, what problems do you have, what are you trying to solve, and then you can start pairing up your particular solutions or scenarios that might be a fit for what they need. At the end of the day, they’re only going to hire you or engage you if you can actually help them be successful in their roles.

In general, I’m a lot more analytical than otherwise, so I’m trying to listen and process information. I look for patterns and solutions before speaking. I also try to keep in mind that when I, as the leader, say something, people will start to line up around that, and it might not be the best outcome. I’ll caveat things by saying, ‘Here’s an idea. It doesn’t have to be this way, but let’s start with this and then see if we can make it better.’ I want to avoid a situation where people just say, ‘Well, he said this, so that’s what we have to do,’ because I’ve seen that a lot and it doesn’t tend to end up that well.

Dan Roberts: From your vantage point as CEO, what advice would you offer CIOs and IT leaders about how to make the biggest impact?

Now that I’m the CEO, I look at the CIO role and think, wow, that was a lot harder than I could ever imagine it being. When you’re in the middle of it, you just do what you have to do. But when you’re observing the situation, she or he is supporting every function in the company. Everybody wants something, everybody wants it yesterday for low cost or free, and it just doesn’t work that way. So you need to be able to navigate, be a consultant, and put financial priorities in place, because you have to protect your team, too — you can’t just burn them out. You basically have to be an international ambassador of goodwill to try to keep the peace with everybody and keep the progress moving for the company.

At the end of the day, you need to stay focused on, what business problem are we trying to solve? Is it revenue? Is it EBITDA? Customer experience? It sounds like an easy question to ask, but in too many meetings, people have no idea what they’re trying to solve. Ask that question. Get focused in on the solutions, and as a CIO or technology leader, translate the tech talk into business speak. Then be a partner and a consultant and you’re going to end up in a good spot.

For more insights from the leadership playbook of CIO-turned-CEO Kevin Hart, tune in to the Tech Whisperers podcast.

IT Leadership, Mentoring

In the face of structural change and rampant crises, the world—and the technologies reshaping it—is experiencing a drastic shift. Even the very nature of disruption is evolving, with challenges such as talent gaps and inflationary pressures frequently demanding our immediate attention. To outpace these events, CIOs need to leverage resilience capabilities as a competitive advantage. Seizing opportunities to differentiate the business through financial, supply chain, the business ecosystem, and sustainability can help them thrive in this new digital era.

With this outlook, some may expect IT spending to shrink drastically. Yet this hasn’t seemed to be the case. On the contrary, spending on digital technology is set to grow by 3.5 times the economy in 2023. It’s clear that more organisations are looking to establish a foundation for operational excellence, competitive differentiation, and long-term growth.

A handful of businesses are already doing so as they transition from just adopting digital transformation to embodying what it means to be a digital business. Whereas digital transformation in its earliest iteration—digital transformation 1.0—focuses on driving mobility and tapping on the then-nascent Internet of Things, the subsequent phase prominently features technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning and ways to extend their use across every aspect of the business.

Digital businesses are the next step in this evolution; they are staunchly digital-first and are hyper-focused on delivering business value and outcomes through digital innovation. This will become a crucial transition for businesses. After all, 40% of total revenue for Global 2000 organisations will be generated by digital products, services, and experiences by 2026.

Understanding the successes of past IDC Future Enterprise Awards winners

Amidst the disruptive forces in the business landscape, forward-looking digital businesses are leveraging digital technologies to optimise their operations and performance.

We look at Midea Industrial Internet (MIOT), the recipient of the Future Enterprise of the Year at the IDC Future Enterprise Awards 2022. The company is actively deploying AI and advanced digital technologies to enhance the user experience while empowering their employees and partners with the right digital tools. This has resulted in a flexible and efficient supply chain that has reduced their delivery cycle by 56% and enhanced the way they collaborate with partners. At the same time, they also increased the inventory turnover of finished products by 125%, paving the way for other enterprises in the manufacturing industry to become the next digital business.

Visionary leaders, too, play a significant role in every digital business as they are instrumental in leading the business toward an ambitious vision. Suresh Sundararajan, the recipient of the CDO of the Year Award (Singapore) in 2022, is the then-Chief Officer and now CEO of Olam Ventures and Olam Technology Services.

Sundararajan has redefined the company’s purpose of reimagining global agriculture and food systems, and this is buoyed by his beliefs in good leadership: the ability to manage ambiguity and look at things through an experimental framework, which can open doors to more possibilities for the business. This is in line with his advice for future leaders, which is to invest in people without putting constraints on their suggestions and ideas. At the same time, transformation is dependent on using the right technologies for the problems a business is solving. According to Sundararajan, businesses should not be led by the most current technologies to embrace transformation. A better approach is to identify what the issues are, and then look into the technology that can be deployed to solve them.

Taking risks with emerging, cutting-edge technologies is another approach of many digital businesses. This is what Zuellig Pharma did which it to becoming the recipient of the Best in Future of Intelligence and Special Award for Digital Resiliency in 2022.

The pharmaceutical company wanted to build an ecosystem of solutions that will better connect patients and their pharma clients. That’s why Zuellig Pharma had invested heavily in data and data analytics, becoming a pioneer in the use of blockchain as part of their solution on traceability. These technologies are used to develop eZTracker, which helps bring their pharma clients and customers together by delivering data-driven insights, such as ensuring that healthcare products being delivered are from an authorised source. Zuellig Pharma has also created eZRx, a B2B eCommerce platform for buying and selling healthcare products, and eZHealth, an app that offers patients access to comprehensive healthcare services.

Recognising the next digital business for Asia Pacific Japan IDC Future Enterprise Awards

To recognise the next generation of digital businesses and leaders, the 2023 Asia Pacific Japan IDC Future Enterprise Awards is now open for nominations. Any end-user organisation can nominate their project or initiative, or be nominated by a 3rd party organisation—agencies, associations, and IT suppliers—to gain recognition in the execution of the initiative in one of the categories.

The IDC Future Enterprise Awards follows a two-phased approach to determine country and regional winners. Each nomination is evaluated by IDC’s country and regional analysts against a standard assessment framework based on IDC’s Future Enterprise taxonomy. All country winners will then qualify for the regional competition, where a regional panel of judges comprising IDC Worldwide analysts, industry thought leaders, and members of the academia, will determine the regional winners.

Entries will be judged based on the eight building blocks organizations need to successfully close the digital gap and become Future Enterprises in a digital-first world: Connectedness, Customer Experience, Digital Infrastructure, Industry Ecosystems, Intelligence, Operations, Trust, and Work.

Individual awards for CEO and CIO/CDO of the Year will also be handed out, as well as Special Awards for Digital Innovation, Digital Resiliency, and Sustainability. New in 2023, Special Awards for the best Digital Native Business as well as Smart Cities initiatives for Citizen Wellbeing, Connected City, and Digital Policies will also be given out.

Learn more at IDC Future Enterprise Awards 2023.

Register for an account at IDC Future Enterprise Awards Platform to submit an entry.

CIO, Enterprise Applications, Enterprise Architecture

The mouthwatering aromas and Instagram-worthy food coming from Chef Edward Lee’s kitchens are a far cry from the virtual worlds of IT professionals. And yet both can be high-stress work environments where smart systems and teamwork lead to the best outcomes.

Lee has thought a lot about what a modern workplace should look like, and he’s innovating new ways of doing business. He will bring his story and lessons about leadership and disruption to the FutureIT Washington, D.C., conference taking place May 11 at Convene.

Designed for IT professionals in the Capitol-area community, the event promises to help attendees master the complexity of digital innovation.

The daylong event kicks off with a workshop on persuasive communication. Led by Larry Bonfante, a senior consultant at Ouellette & Associates and former CIO of the United States Tennis Association, and Dan Roberts, host of the Tech Whispers podcast, the interactive session will coach attendees on gaming out a strategy for success when navigating tough conversations with colleagues, vendors, board members, and other stakeholders.

Forward-thinking businesses are realizing the role of the CIO in using technology to achieve business outcomes – especially in today’s uncertain economic times. Niki Allen, chief information technology and operations officer and vice president of infrastructure and operations, for Boeing Information Technology & Data Analytics, and Rona Bunn, CIO of NACD will offer practical strategies to lead the digital journey and avoid burnout, as well as answer audience questions in an open discussion.

Another reality redefining the workplace is hybrid work. Compucom’s Troy Baldwin, product management director, will share tips for improving employee experience and building “remote right” strategies that connect digital workforces across the world.

Addressing security needs in the age of ransomware, Evan Wolff, a partner at the law firm Crowell & Moring, will talk about the legalities of responding to data breaches.

As companies move into cloud maturity, mastering cloud governance will become a vital skill. Robert Ford, vice president, enterprise strategy, at CoreStack will discuss how to unlock greater cloud value.

Find out how to use generative AI to enhance customer experience at a presentation from Marci Maddox, research vice president for IDC’s Persuasive Content and Digital Experience Management Software Program.

With data and analytics forming the cornerstone of digital innovation, learn how to build a data-driven culture with Karla Gill, CTO of Momentous Capital.

Finally, Matt Deneroff, branch director at the executive recruiting firm Robert Half, will give an overview of the IT executive job market as well as identify the skills that are emerging as must-have among successful candidates.

Throughout the day, attendees will have opportunities to learn about new solutions from technology partners and to network with peers.

There will be lively discussion groups with experts on topics such as zero trust, next-gen cloud strategies, and emerging technologies.

Attendees will also have the chance to participate in a guided networking session as more casual networking breaks. The day will wrap with a networking reception.

Don’t miss out – register now!

Change Management, Cloud Computing, Data and Information Security, Data Breach, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

At FutureIT | Toronto, you’ll walk away with insights and tactics that will help your organization no matter where you are in your digital journey. Get ready to ask questions to our experts, participate in discussion groups and learn about modernizing your digital enterprise with cloud, AI and security.

Lights. Camera. Action!

CIO and IDC present a brand-new conference to hit Toronto’s downtown tech leadership scene.  On Tuesday May 9th FutureIT | Toronto will bring local tech leaders, IDC Analysts, and industry experts from the GTA together for an unforgettable day of learning and networking at Vantage Venues in the Financial District at University and King St. West.  With its tagline, “Building the Digital Enterprise with Cloud, AI and Security” you can be sure the conversations are going to yield some very strong outcomes.   All mainstage sessions will be professionally recorded and re-broadcast on Thursday May 11th at the FutureIT | Canada virtual event for those who are unable to attend in person. Details on how to register are found below.  

On May 9th the day opens with a powerful keynote presentation by the Chief Research Officer at IDC, Meredith Whalen. To put this into perspective, Meredith is the head of IDC Research globally. With more than 1,300 analysts worldwide, IDC offers global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries. She truly has her pulse on everything imaginable. With her new presentation titled, “Scaling the digital enterprise with Cloud, AI and Security” Meredith Whalen will explore three pivots technology leaders will be making with respect to technology investment, labor optimization, and building trusted technology ecosystems to run their digital business at scale.

There are lots of opportunities to connect and network during the event. Attendees get a chance to meet each other on a more personal level during the guided networking session involving a variety of interactive elements to facilitate immediate connections.  During the extended networking luncheon, not only will there be a delicious hot buffet to enjoy but you can also get a refreshed profile photo to use on LinkedIn, or your other online profiles, at the professional headshot studio run by Event Imaging.

After lunch we hear from Matt Everson on the popular topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) while he shares, “How to Modernize your Digital Business with AI”.  He will discuss how to assess an organization’s readiness for AI, develop an AI strategy that aligns with business objectives and the skills required to implement AI in a way that ensures responsible use. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of how to leverage AI to modernize their digital business and create new opportunities for growth.

Speaking of growth, it’s not always about growing the business.  This event has some incredible leaders slated to speak and share their stories about leadership in the C-suite with the aim to help personal growth.  We discuss the concept of 360 Leadership and how to lead with strategy, vision, and purpose. Sara Fenwick, VP Technology at Ren’s Pets and Liese Coroy, CIO (Sr. Director BTS) at Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee will sit down with CIO Editor, Lee Rennick in a candid discussion where they will discuss implementing new technology initiatives, managing budgets and board expectations, and what happens when things don’t go as planned.

Another highly anticipated panel discussion will occur between George Y. Al Koura, CISO at Ruby Life Ltd. and IDC Canada’s Yogesh Shivhare, Research Manager, Cybersecurity.  In their session they discuss the role of the modern CISO as a trusted business influencer and head coach.  With George’s background in high performance sports and leadership paired with IDC’s Framework of Trust these two discuss striking the balance between strategic leadership, department and team management and the role as a thought leader-stakeholder for security issues accross the entire enterprise. Digital trust is important for Canadian organizations and this session will discuss how you can build it using IDC’s Framework of Trust to be an effective business influencer as the head coach of your organization.

We also have session discussing cloud workloads and the state of cloud native security presented by subject matter experts from Bell and PaloAlto Networks.

The captivating closing keynote, highlighting the days’ key takeaways, is presented by IDC Analyst and Research Vice President, Software and Cloud Services, Megha Kumar. Digital transformation is moving the needle toward digital business, where the next challenge will be driving revenue and scaling operations without a commensurate increase in costs. No matter where you are on your digital journey, cloud, AI and security are integral to modernizing your systems and creating the essential customer and employee focused organization needed to keep up.

The event concludes with a fun and social networking reception where attendees can make those final connections and strengthen their professional network even more.

If you’re not from the GTA and already thinking, wow, this would be incredible to attend, if only I wasn’t from a different part of the country?!  Well don’t worry, our professional video team is onsite recording the mainstage content which will be featured in a Canada-wide virtual version of this event broadcasting on Thursday May 11th titled, FutureIT | Canada – Building the Digital Enterprise with Cloud, AI and Security. The virtual event also features an informative and engaging networking event where you’ll want those cameras on! (Only if you’re comfortable with that of course – observing is just as valuable.) The networking event allows you to meet other attendees and ask questions to some of our featured speakers.

FutureIT | Toronto will deliver a day packed with insightful speakers, valuable case studies, and enticing sessions on cloud, AI and security from Canadian CIOs, industry experts and leading IDC analysts.

The deadline to register for the in-person experience at FutureIT | Toronto is on Friday May 5th.

For FutureIT Canada, the virtual event on May 11th registration is open. If you are unable to make it during the live broadcast on the 11th you are encouraged to register anyways so you get access to the content on re-play between May 12th – 25th, 2023 in our secure virtual environment.  

So, what are you waiting for? Register today!  

Events, IT Leadership, Technology Industry

Gartner projects that spending on information security and risk management products and services will  grow 11.3% to reach more than $188.3 billion this year. But despite those expenditures, there have already been at least 13 major data breaches, including at Apple, Meta and Twitter.

To better focus security spend, some chief information security officers (CISOs) are shifting their risk assessments from IT systems to the data, applications, and processes that keep the business going.

“If you look at security from a purely technical perspective, it’s easy to get lost in, `I need to have this shiny object because everyone else has it,’” says David Christensen, VP and CISO at benefits administration software provider PlanSource. “The reality is often the most popular or well-known new security solution can waste money and slow the business, especially if it doesn’t align with business goals. And even if it helps secure one part of the business, it may not be the part of the business or business process that creates the most risk or is most important.”

Don Pecha, CISO at managed services provider FNTS, agrees, adding: “Each business unit of the company might have unique considerations, and unique compliance, regulatory, or privacy applications, and each business may have unique risks for the board or C-suite to consider.”

Frank Kim, CISO-in-residence at venture capital firm YL Ventures, and fellow at the SANS Institute, cites the case of one CISO who was fired after suggesting costly endpoint detection, and response and incident response programs considered not stage appropriate for such a startup. “Their focus was on survival and revenue growth,” Kim says. “He didn’t realize his job was not just to suggest a bunch of new security capabilities, but business enablement.

A new definition of value

Aligning security with the business goes beyond traditional methods of justifying security spend, such as warning of consequences from hacks or trying to prove ROI. For internal enterprise security teams, Kim says to accept that security is a cost center and demonstrate how the CISO manages total cost of ownership over time. This might include updating CFOs and CEOs on specific cost reduction, such as reducing spend with a security vendor, finding a less expensive product to fill a security need, or improving internal metrics such as the average cost to mitigate a vulnerability, adds Tyson Kopczynski,SVP and CISO at financial services provider Oportun.

Christensen further suggests explaining how security can cut costs or increase productivity. For example, he says, web application firewalls don’t only protect applications but cut networking costs by reducing spurious and malicious traffic. Also, adopting zero-trust architecture and secure access service edge technologies can help boost productivity by freeing users from manually deploying virtual private networks to access resources or interrupt meetings when their VPN fails.  

Kopczynski adds that CISOs can uncover such improvements with questions such as whether their organization is using all the functions in a security tool, if those features overlap with other tools, and whether the organization is paying too much for licenses or for too many licenses. Ways to maximize value include considering tools that perform multiple security functions, or running penetration tests, attack simulations, or offensive security campaigns that prove a tool can repel high impact attacks, he says. For example, he uses the Titaniam encryption engine to support several data protection use cases, as well as security tools provided by cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft. “We also look at generic cloud security solutions that provide multiple sets of protections, versus addressing one particular use case,” he says.

At global marketing agency and consulting firm The Channel Company, security considerations are deeply embedded in business strategy and budgeting, says CIO Rik Wright. This ranges from the need to meet the European Union’s GDPR to complying with security requirements from customers.

Averting threats is also part of the security value equation at the firm, which uses managed services provider GreenPages both for infrastructure and to help meet its security needs. Wright says he’s seen some companies spend potentially business threatening amounts up to $20 million after a ransomware attack, so preventing such losses, he says, represents very real value.

Understanding business needs

Aligning security spend with business needs starts with understanding what is most important to business managers.

Kim recommends using a “risk = impact x likelihood” formula, and understanding on a scale of 1 to 10 what your most important processes and assets are. “Your financial data might be a 10 but your HR data might be a seven as it’s not a business differentiator,” he says. “Just using a simple scoring rubric to your risk calculation helps to bubble up what the priorities are.”

Besides business, Christensen says CISOs must also consult IT to understand the administrative burden a new security technology might impose, and all the areas in which a security tool could be used to maximize its value. He uses the Secure Web Gateway from to not only control access, but to understand what information and Web sites users are accessing, and the potential risks they expose the business to.

Industry standard frameworks can also provide a common language and structure for risk assessment, like the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) cybersecurity framework. “It’s simple enough that it’s not necessary to be a security practitioner to understand it, but it models your maturity and helps to relate that to business stakeholders,” says Christensen, adding it’s also based on industry standards rather than the CISO’s opinions, and is continually updated to reflect new risks.

Different security frameworks are best for different industries, says Pecha. “If I’m in government, I’m going to align with NIST,” he says. “If you’re a global business, use the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards. It’s not necessary to be certified, but be compliant and understand what the controls are in order to understand your partner’s security needs as well as your own.

Scott Reynolds, senior security and network engineering manager for manufacturer Johns Manville, uses the ISA/IEC 62443 standard to create a common understanding between business managers, security experts and suppliers about common terms such as the “zones” of assets that share common security needs. “This process also shows we agree on the same level of risk for the entire zone, and not just each asset in the zone,” he says. “The weakest link in the zone will impact all the assets within it.”

Over at media creation and editing technology provider Avid Technology, Dmitriy Sokolovskiy, its CISO and CSO, uses NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework to measure the maturity of his security processes, and the Center for Internet Security’s top security controls for specific tactical guidance, which, he says, highlight, low-hanging fruit that businesses can easily address in their infrastructure.

Applying caution with benchmarks

Several CISOs were skeptical about using benchmarks to compare their security spend with others. That’s because, they say, companies may define security spend differently or have different needs. They also say benchmarks often don’t describe how and why organizations allocate their security budgets. As a result, they use benchmarks as a rough guide to budgeting, relying primarily on their own risk assessments.

But Kim warns CISOs against refusing C-level requests for benchmarking. “It’s not unreasonable to ask for a benchmark,” he says. “A chief financial officer couldn’t say, ‘We can’t compare our earnings-per-share with others in the industry.’” Provide benchmarks, he says, but as one part of a wider explanation of how your security spend compares with others, the challenges the organization faces, and how you’re reducing the total cost of ownership of security over time.

CISOs should describe current threats and attacks,” says Pecha, and supply alternatives to remediate them. It’s then up to the board and the C-suite to decide what’s acceptable and what needs to be done to manage the overall risk to the business, he says, because only they have the clout to drive change.

Insisting a business executive formally accept a business risk, even in writing, often convinces them to agree instead to the proposed security spend. When Sokolovskiy has insisted such signoff, “Without fail, so far the business unit was actually driven to lower the risk themselves because they own it,” he says.

A business-focused approach can also spur efforts by security and business teams to identify opportunities to increase efficiency and save money, says Christensen, such as by eliminating redundant systems and processes. “With business alignment, you have no choice but to find unique and innovative ways to solve problems that are generated by how the business operates,” he says.

Application Management, Budgeting, CIO, CSO and CISO, Data and Information Security, IT Leadership, Security

By Chet Kapoor, Chairman & CEO,DataStax

Mistakes: we all make them. Whether it’s screwing up a demo in front of the entire leadership team or hiring the wrong person for a role, I can’t even count how many times I’ve made mistakes throughout my career. These moments are never easy, but they are always learning experiences–and the best leaders are always learning.

Below, I share a few common mistakes leaders and organizations are making today and how they can overcome them to drive lasting success.

Mistake 1: undisciplined growth

Leaders are facing times of uncertainty, magnified recently with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and ongoing market turmoil. As companies continue to navigate the current economic headwinds, one thing is clear: growing responsibly is critical both in the good times and the hard times.

Kelly Battles is a seasoned CFO and board member at several Silicon Valley organizations. I recently discussed the biggest mistakes companies make with regard to execution.

“The biggest mistakes that I’ve seen are whiplash overreactions to the fear and greed cycle,” Kelly said.

When times are good, it can be easy to get greedy. Maybe your burn increases, you loosen your controls, or you don’t take discipline as seriously. As a result, you have an organization that’s floating with the tides. The problem is when a tough period hits, now you are unprepared. As we’ve seen over the last several months, irresponsible growth can lead to hiring freezes and limiting investments (at best) or mass layoffs and big risks (at worst).

In Kelly’s words, “The best companies are disciplined during the greedy times and lead with strength during the toughest.”

Growing responsibly requires thinking about where you’re investing resources, the way you’re prioritizing projects, and how you’re tracking progress. It’s a constant balance of patience and impatience–but if you stay disciplined, it will pay off.

Mistake 2: failing to implement AI across the business

The age of AI is here. Leading enterprises like Netflix and Uber have been leveraging AI to drive business outcomes for years, but today these capabilities are within reach for companies of all sizes. It’s not just about building AI products–it’s also about using AI to improve performance and efficiency across the business.

I had the chance to catch up with Hussein Mehanna, who heads up AI and ML at the self-driving car company Cruise. Hussein shared how his team is using AI to improve their operational efficiency. They have a paradigm called the “continuous learning machine,” where engineers use AI to automate their repetitive work tasks and build predictive models to help with productivity. This way, they can focus on high-value tasks and the more creative aspects of their work.

Winning companies of today and of the future will be AI-first:

It starts with data. Focus on finding quality data and building proprietary signals (i.e. unique insights that come from your data)Once you have quality signals, start searching for monetization methods. Usually, you can use the data to improve your apps and productsHave a strong AI execution framework that includes people, process and, technology–and use it across the business

Mistake #3: Treating DEI&B like a “nice-to-have”

Many companies view diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) through the numbers, and there’s a common misconception that hiring diverse individuals equates to a more diverse and inclusive culture. But that’s only a small piece of the big picture.

To build a truly inclusive and equitable workplace, leaders need to focus on driving real behavioral change. This starts with each individual looking in the mirror and asking themselves every day: How did I show up? Did I listen actively? Can I identify any implicit or unconscious biases at play? If I made a mistake, did I take accountability, and how can I do better next time?

Alana Mayo is president at Orion Pictures, a division of MGM that’s dedicated to underrepresented voices and authentic storytelling in film. I often refer back to our discussion on the Inspired Execution podcast, where Alana shared tips for holding ourselves accountable and demonstrating inclusivity.

“In meetings, don’t always speak first. Take note of when you are talking more than other people in the room. And the biggest thing to remember is that both active listening and speaking up require vulnerability,” she said. “It ultimately goes back to creating a culture where there’s really good communication and where everybody feels comfortable enough to be vulnerable.”

Today, it’s not enough to treat your DEI efforts as a box on a checklist. Real progress and impact start with each leader, each individual at your company. And in the current economic climate, now is actually the perfect time to double down on investing in your people–it will pay off.

For more insights and stories from world-class leaders, check out Inspired Execution here or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Season 5 is coming soon!

About Chet Kapoor:

Chet is Chairman and CEO of DataStax. He is a proven leader and innovator in the tech industry with more than 20 years in leadership at innovative software and cloud companies, including Google, IBM, BEA Systems, WebMethods, and NeXT. As Chairman and CEO of Apigee, he led company-wide initiatives to build Apigee into a leading technology provider for digital business. Google (Apigee) is the cross-cloud API management platform that operates in a multi- and hybrid-cloud world. Chet successfully took Apigee public before the company was acquired by Google in 2016. Chet earned his B.S. in engineering from Arizona State University.

IT Leadership

Despite all the attention generative AI is getting right now, most organizations have done little with artificial intelligence. That is a big mistake, says Tom Davenport, senior advisor to Deloitte’s Analytics practice. Enterprises, especially industry leaders, need to be all-in on AI if they are to remain competitive.

To truly benefit from AI investments, organizations must rethink how humans and machines interact in work environments, Davenport says, starting with applications that change how employees do their jobs and how they interact with customers. AI should help drive every business decision, and every product or service offering.

That message is at the heart of Davenport’s new book, All in on AI: How Smart Companies Win Big with Artificial Intelligence, co-written with Deloitte Consulting principal Nitin Mittal.

“It doesn’t provide a lot of value to just tinker with AI — to do an experiment here and there,” Davenport says. “We can do AI pretty easily on a small scale. But integrating it into how you do your work means embedding it into your existing technology architecture.”

Instead, organizations need to incorporate AI into business processes and workflows. They need to upskill staff to work with AI. And they need to ensure the AI technology can scale. They also need to do these things over time, to ensure the world doesn’t change in a way that makes the effort counter-productive.

“There are lots of benefits to be had from aggressively adopting [AI], and using it to change your strategy, your business model, and your key business processes. It’s really urging companies to do more with AI than the toes-in-the-water approach that most have taken,” Davenport stresses.

Learning from those who reap huge benefits from AI investments

In the book, Davenport and Mittal identify 30 organizations that have gone ‘all-in’ on AI and benefitted enormously from this strategy.

“The most impressive example is Ping in China,” Davenport explains. “Most people don’t know much about it, although it’s the 16th largest company in terms of revenue in the world. It is now the largest private sector company in China. Ping was founded as an insurance company, but they now have five ‘ecosystems,’ or business units. In addition to insurance, they have added banking, healthcare, Smart City [a smart cities business], and an automobile services business.”

Ping has grown at an unbelievable rate, Davenport says. The firm created this ecosystem approach to enable them to partner with other organizations and get customer data from those relationships. They use that data to create AI models that do a good job of predicting or categorizing behaviors. They then grow each business and get more data, he says.

“My favorite example is their healthcare business, which created an offering called Good Doctor,” Davenport continues. “During the pandemic, we were impressed in the United States when people could talk to their doctor over Zoom, get a prescription or whatever. But this goes so far beyond that.”

Good Doctor is an AI-based system for triage, diagnosis, and then treatment recommendations, Davenport explains. An actual doctor makes the final diagnosis and recommends treatment for a patient, but the physician gets recommendations from the Good Doctor system.

“For me, the most astounding thing is that it is used by nearly 400 million people in China, more than the population of the United States. They don’t have enough doctors in China, so it has made a huge difference to the state of healthcare,” Davenport says.

Other AI leaders transforming their markets

Another example profiled in the book is Shell Oil Co., which has embraced AI for many of its business units, and has used AI to re-engineer a number of processes. The most dramatic example is around inspection of Shell’s large plants and pipelines.

“It used to literally take up to six years to inspect every aspect of their plants with human inspectors,” Davenport says. “Shell now shoots for six days, using drones and AI-based image analysis systems. They have achieved dramatic reductions in the time to do these inspections, and there is a potential safety benefit here as well. Shell has also trained over 5,000 engineers to be citizen data scientists, in a sense. They are able to interpret this inspection data without having a professional data science background.”

A third example is Kroger, which is one of the largest grocery retailers in the US. Kroger has a wholly-owned data science subsidiary called 84 Point 51 Degrees, based in Cincinnati. The name comes from the longitude of Cincinnati.

“The subsidiary is really quite impressive in terms of the data science work that they do for Kroger related to consumer products, as well as the companies that sell their products in Kroger,” Davenport explains. “For example, they run a huge model that predicts the sales in every stock unit, in every store, in their entire collection of stores, every night.”

Kroger also has the largest grocery loyalty program in the country. The company uses data from that program to predict what product offerings and promotions will convince members to show up at a local store more often, and to buy more.

“They are using the loyalty program to recommend new products with a high level of nutrition, to encourage customers to shop in the healthy food space,” Davenport says. “They also sell some of their data insights to consumer products partners. I think they’re well ahead of any other grocery retailer in that regard.”

AI’s value for large legacy organizations

The primary focus of Davenport and Mittal’s book is on legacy organizations that want to truly transform with AI.

“It isn’t about the digital natives that have a much easier time of it, since everybody [in those organizations] already believes in AI and digital transformation,” Davenport notes. “Still, a lot of companies say they’re doing it. But they have very few deployments of AI to show. They haven’t integrated it into their day-to-day work, and hence, don’t get any real economic value.”

Davenport acknowledges that many companies may feel reluctant to make a large investment at this relatively early stage of ‘modern’ AI. But the book is intended to demonstrate how organizations committed to AI use are reaping significant benefits, and in some cases, transforming their markets.

Toward that end, these leading organizations are both broad and deep in terms of AI adoption, Davenport says. They have several use cases or applications in production. They use a variety of technologies, including machine learning. Many also use robotic process automation and linguistics-based computational chatbots.

“The time to stand on the sidelines is over,” Davenport stresses. “In a way, we were trying to scare readers and say, ‘It’s going to be hard to catch up if somebody else in your industry is doing this, and you’re not.’”

Most importantly, AI is an area where it will be difficult to be a fast-follower, because it requires a lot of data and a lot of skills that are not widely available, Davenport explains. Organizations should start investing in AI now, and there are ways to do this fairly easily and inexpensively.

“Many vendors are incorporating AI capabilities into their ERP systems and CRM systems, so you could start there,” Davenport says. “But if you want any sort of competitive advantage from AI, you probably have to develop some of these capabilities yourself. That means developing the skills and technology capabilities in order to produce some of your own use cases.”

Artificial Intelligence

CEOs continue to see the need for more collaboration between IT and the business units, so much so that in a recent survey CEOs listed that as the No. 1 objective for the IT function.

The State of the CIO Study 2023 from Foundry, an IDG company and publisher of, found strengthening IT and business collaboration to be CEO’s top priority for IT this year, ahead of upgrading IT and data security to reduce corporate risk (No. 2 on the list) and improving the customer experience (No. 3).

Experts say such findings aren’t surprising, as collaboration and alignment between IT and the rest of the business are key for picking the right priorities, driving the right investments, and bringing transformative programs to fruition.

Foundry /

Yet they also say CIOs often struggle to get and keep business buy-in, particularly for bigger initiatives that require change or have hurdles to overcome — as most innovative endeavors inevitably do. Those can still be hard to sell, even today, when digital transformation dominates. And enthusiasm for those projects can be difficult to sustain, particularly when teams hit those obstacles.

There are strategies that can help here. Executive advisors and veteran CIOs offer 12 ways to win and maintain business buy-in — even when the going gets tough.

1. Be ‘technology ready’

To win and keep business buy-in, IT has to do more than bring its A-game. It has to deliver for the business “faster, better, and cheaper than anyone else,” says Mohamed Kande, vice chair at professional services firm PWC, where he is US Consulting Solutions co-leader and Global Advisory leader.

That takes attention to all the moving parts within the IT function. CIOs need the right people, the right teams, and the right technology so they’re able to focus on enterprise strategy, knowing they have an engine ready to support it, Kande says.

“Otherwise, they’re still trying to take care of the basics and they aren’t in a place where they’re able to think about the future,” he says.

To that point, he says CIOs may not need to move everything to the cloud but they should “move what they must” so they’re not weighed down fixing fundamentals and instead can focus on the corporate strategy questions.

“Being technology ready means that the technology the company is using is helping them run the company in an optimal way with flexibility and security,” Kande says. “It allows the CIO to have a different conversation; it allows the shift to business outcomes.”

2. Speak to specific business outcomes

Modern CIOs know to speak in business terms and leave the tech jargon behind. But those who are truly intertwined with their business unit colleagues are speaking not only about strategy but key components of it: growth, revenue, profit margin, and so on.

As Kande explains, “The business is asking for technology to deliver business outcomes: Are we selling more products and services? Do we have [for example] more visibility into manufacturing or supplies?”

Christine Dunbar, founder and CEO of ROC Implementation & Management Group, a Gaithersburg, Md.-based business strategy, cybersecurity, and IT consulting company says CIOs who do that best know the metrics the business wants to see and hear in such cases.

CIOs who speak in the metrics that quantify those business outcomes — whether that’s figures on a new digital product’s ability to boosts sales or calculations around a new platform’s customer retention capabilities — are the ones whose plans are continuously endorsed by their business unit colleagues, Dunbar says.

3. Be fluent in the language of the business units

Speaking of the language used, Brian Hoyt, former CIO of Unity Technologies and AppDynamics and now COO at Parkway Venture Capital, says business unit and IT teams tend to develop more enduring partnerships when they’re able to talk about work on the same level.

“It’s absolutely critical to have IT resources highly fluent in the goals of the business units they cover,” Hoyt explains. “I always viewed it as a success when my IT team members were invited to participate in [quarterly business reviews] or strategic planning exercises with the business unit they service. We measured ourselves by how much engagement we are getting.”

4. Be in ‘relationship mode’

In a summer 2022 Harvard Business Review article titled “The C-Suite Skills That Matter Most,” the authors presented findings from their research on this topic, writing that while management of financial and operational resources remains a critical skill, companies “instead prioritize one qualification above all others: strong social skills.”

RJ Juliano, senior vice president and chief information & marketing officer at Parkway, has seen the importance of those skills in winning allies among his executive colleagues. As such, he works to build connections with his peers before he needs to seek their support. That way, when he does need that buy-in, he says there’s a well of trust that he can draw on “because that mutual understanding has already been established.”

“Think about your vendor relationships. Do the same [relationship building] with your peers. Find reasons to interact with them in nonstructured time, whether it’s lunch or it’s those times that aren’t strategic planning meetings. Don’t always be in a transactional mode; be in a relationship mode. That goes for the board, too,” he says.

5. Work out issues in advance

Another way to get and keep business buy-in, according to Juliano: Identify and work out issues ahead of time — especially with any skeptics.

“Make yourself go have those conversations one-on-one well in advance of a decision,” he says. Get feedback early. Check in and course correct before finalizing plans.

Juliano says it’s about recognizing with any initiative that the problems and pain points the business units face and IT’s problems “are the same problem.”

Juliano works by this approach, pointing to how he handled discussions about the current ongoing project to replace the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. In addition to conversations about business needs, he has talked with business unit leaders about the organizational maturity of all the teams and the teams’ readiness for upcoming changes before embarking on this project.

Through that advance work, Juliano and one of his peers were able to work together on some organizational issues that if left unaddressed could have limited the company’s ability to get full value out of the ERP replacement and, as a result, could have led to diminishing support for the initiative.

6. Make sure the CEO agrees

Buy-in starts at the top, so it’s essential to cultivate positivity there, too. “It’s really important to ensure that the CEO views the IT team as an equal stakeholder for successful business outcomes. Otherwise, the relationship with business unit heads will not last,” Hoyt says.

He adds: “A CIO’s responsibility is to ensure the CEO can easily articulate what projects are happening and why they are important to the overall strategy.”

7. Embrace the concept of shared pain

Another approach Juliano uses to ensure IT and business are in lockstep as they advance organizational objectives is to identify and highlight shared goals. For him, that means in part articulating IT’s piece of initiatives as well as demonstrating IT’s commitment to co-owning success — and, if things don’t go right, co-owning failure, too.

“Your IT deliverables should be 100% part of the business’ strategic goals,” he says. “But if you’re making plans and you’re not seeing that there’s a clear IT objective, then you’re reducing your chance of successes and I’d question why you’re not part of that execution. So get your name on those goals so you are seen as a co-deliverer. Make sure your name is primary or secondary owner.”

Juliano says that sends a good message to executive peers as well as the teams doing the work: “It’s saying, ‘I’m taking responsibility to say my resources and planning are behind this.’ It’s the shared pain, shared gain. If we succeed, we succeed together or if it’s not going well, we’re in it together.”

He continues: “IT can get disconnected from company goals but with this you can walk back into your team and say, ‘This is where we’re on the hook.’ And that improves your team’s chances of success, because it helps focus the team and they know they’re part of the strategy.”

8. Employ business relationship managers

Dunbar believes the business relationship manager is a crucial role for the IT team as business relationship managers help ensure IT knows and focuses on the initiatives that the business values and, thus, will support.

“Business relationship managers understand the business, the strategy, and what’s going on. They’re going to understand the nuances — that’s a key word — they understand the nuances of what the business wants and can communicate that to the IT team,” she says.

Paying attention to those nuances matter, Dunbar says, as they often mean the difference in big wins versus marginal improvements and, consequently, whether a business unit stays committed to the work with IT or wanes in its enthusiasm.

9. Be upfront about risks

IT typically houses project managers, or at least workers skilled in project management principles, which makes the department well qualified on identifying risks and planning mitigation strategies.

Juliano leans into that, using that information to help shepherd initiatives from start to finish and through any periods of concerns or doubts that come up.

He says it’s easy, and understandable, for executives to focus on the benefits and ROI of any given project. And while conversations about ROI are crucial for getting buy-in from stakeholders, Juliano says focusing on those good points upfront may not be enough to sustain everyone when they hit bumps moving forward.

“So have honest conversations about the risks and what you’re going to do about them as well as what the rewards are,” he says, an approach he says works particularly well for CIOs who have built a record of successful change management which demonstrates to their workers’ ability to mitigate risks.

Juliano says he has found that upfront honesty helps address doubts and questions that stakeholders have, prepares them for any obstacles that arise, and reassures them that there’s a plan to pull everyone through.

Juliano points to one particular initiative, a construction project which had a lot of technology components. He brought up potential stumbling blocks and how to address them. He found that others had been thinking about the same potential obstacles. And by vocalizing concerns about the roadblocks ahead and plans to deal with them, he got everyone together to move forward.

10. Use retrospectives to strengthen partnerships

Dunbar says encouraging introspection and feedback from business teams can yield insights on how they view IT, the work it delivers, and where improvements could create a tighter coupling of interests.

As she explains, “Using retrospectives to gain insight on third-party vendors and IT team performance is very helpful. The beauty of the retrospective is that they can be done midway through the year or at any point during the performance of a contract. We recommend that an independent party lead the sessions and that members of the IT team not participate in the sessions to enable candid feedback from the business teams. This type of activity builds trust between the business and technology teams.”

11. Create cross-functional centers of excellence

Another way to get everyone in the same boat — and keep them rowing together — is by creating cross-functional centers of excellence, with the functional business areas involved in projects contributing key players to work with IT, says Mark Taylor, CEO of the Society for Information Management (SIM).

“You’re capturing the innovative energy happening in pockets of the organization and moving it toward more coordinated efforts within these centers of excellence,” he says. This creates a camaraderie where CoE members are able to show up as contributors, which helps eliminate siloes of work and turf wars while building a sense of team.

It reinforces the idea, he explains, that teamwork “is how we collectively get this done.”

12. Empower the business

Robert McNamara, a partner in business and IT strategy at consultancy Guidehouse, says IT can get and keep business buy-in by empowering business units to make and manage some tech-related decisions and tech-driven initiatives.

“There are some things that makes sense to be managed by a tech unit within a business [function] versus the centralized IT organization, and that line of business can reach out for support to the centralized IT organization if and when needed,” he explains.

McNamara says having business units in charge of some technology programs can reduce costs and risk while also improving alignment and compliance. All that, he says, can help get and keep the business onboard with IT strategy.

CIOs can work with their business unit peers to create guidelines for what tech would be better managed within the business units, establish the governance needed, and articulate the benefits this move brings, “whether it’s to shorten the feedback link between the users and what they need from the technology, accelerate innovation, or improve compliance,” he says.

McNamara adds: “If you focus on that, versus who controls it, it helps demonstrate that IT is looking out for the business needs, so they see it’s not about turf.”

Business IT Alignment, IT Leadership

Chief data and analytics officers (CDAOs) are poised to be of increasing strategic importance to their organizations, but many are struggling to make headway, according to data presented last week by Gartner at the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit 2023.

Fewer than half (44%) of data and analytics leaders say their teams are effective in providing value to their organization. That’s from a survey of 566 data and analytics leaders globally that Gartner conducted online from September to November 2022.

“It was kind of an eye-opener that one-third of them felt they were not as effective as they could be,” says Donna Medeiros, senior director analyst at Gartner. “There’s so much going on, so many things they are compelled to do versus what they really want to do, know they need to do, know they need to prioritize. They’re spending a lot of time on things like data quality, data management, things that might be tactical, helping with operational aspects of IT. But that’s not helping move the value of the organization as a business forward.”

The responsibilities of data and analytics leaders are many and varied: Sixty percent of respondents cited defining and implementing data and analytics strategy; 59% said oversight of data and analytics strategy was in their portfolio of responsibilities; 55% pointed to data and analytics governance; and 54% cited managing data-driven culture change.

Organizations are still investing in data and analytics functions. Respondents to the survey reported their organizations are increasing investment in data management (65%), data governance (63%), and advanced analytics (60%). The mean reported budget among respondents was $5.41 million, and 44% said their data and analytics teams increased in size over the past year.

Key obstacles to data success

Despite that increased investment, CDAOs say lack of resources and funding are among their top impediments to delivering results, with 13% citing it as their top obstacle and 29% listing resource constraints among their top three hurdles.

The top impediment? Skills and staff shortages. One in six (17%) survey respondents said talent was their biggest issue, while 39% listed it among their top three. And the tight talent pool isn’t helping, Medeiros says. “CDAOs must have a talent strategy that doesn’t count on hiring data and analytics talent ready-made.”

To counter this, CDAOs need to build a robust talent management strategy that includes education, training, and coaching for data-driven culture and data literacy, Medeiros says. That strategy must apply not only to the core data and analytics team but also the broader business and technology communities in the organization.

Other obstacles to data and analytics success, according to Gartner, include:

Culture challenges to accept change (8%, top impediment; 26%, among top three)Lack of business stakeholder involvement and support (10%, No. 1 impediment; 26%, top three)Not enough authority to execute the CDAO responsibilities (9%, first choice; 24% top three)Poor data literacy (5%, top choice; 23%, top three)

“Their life is very complex,” Medeiros says of the current state of the CDAO role. “They have lots of areas of primary responsibility — implementing data and analytics strategy, oversight of data and analytics initiatives, creating and implementing information systems and data management — and the people side — workforce development, upskilling, making the organization data-driven, artificial intelligence, and centers of excellence. They’ve got a lot of complexity and a lot of people they’re answering to.”

This lack of funding for data initiatives echoes the findings of Foundry/’s 2022 Data & Analytics Study, which also found other digital transformation initiatives taking priority and lack of executive advocacy for data initiatives as other key roadblocks to data-driven success.

What it takes to lead data strategy

Strategic missteps in realizing data goals may signal an organizational issue at the C-level, with company leaders recognizing the importance of data and analytics but falling short on making the strategic changes and investments necessary for success. According to a 2022 study from Alation and Wakefield Research, 71% of data leaders said they were “less than very confident” that their company’s leadership sees a link between investing in data and analytics and staying ahead of the competition.

Even in the case where an organization taps a designated IT leader to helm data strategy, whether in a chief data officer or chief analytics officer role, the complexity of the role and how it interfaces with other business leaders needs to be addressed for success.

Medeiros likens the CDAO role to a combination of three personas: an orchestra conductor, a composer, and a performer. The conductor looks across the organization and conducts how data and analytics is done, both across business lines with the help of domain experts, as well as in a centralized function. The composer creates and sells the storyline of the value of data and analytics. And sometimes, data leaders must be performers: helping to implement data management, data quality, data trust, spending time on data governance, compliance, and risk.

“These three personas require juggling soft, people skills and technical savvy,” Medeiros says, adding that “the CDAO serves multiple stakeholders across the organization and cannot operate in isolation. They need to align with organizational strategic priorities, collaborate and sell the overall vision and strategy for data and analytics, and get buy-in for their initiatives.”

The most successful data leaders, according to Gartner’s survey, outperformed their peers by projecting an executive presence while also building an agile and strategic data and analytics function capable of shaping data-driven business performance and operational excellence, Medeiros says. Gartner asked respondents to rate themselves across 17 executive leadership traits. There was a strong correlation between those leaders who said they were effective or very effective across those traits and those who reported high organizational and team performance. For example, 43% of top-performing data and analytics leaders said they were effective in committing time to their own professional development, versus only 19% of low performers.

Prominence matters

How CDAOs are positioned in the organization also impacts data and analytics success. According to Foundry’s 2023 State of the CIO survey, 53% of chief data officers and 45% of chief analytics officers report to the CIO, while just 35% and 38% report to the CEO, respectively. Moreover, only 37% of CDOs and 25% of CAOs report having budgets separate from IT overall.

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Medeiros concedes that CDAOs who report to the CIO and sit within the IT function can still be effective, but, in general, the higher CDAOs sit in the org chart, the better, she says, as this gives them more visibility and better leverage to work on organizational goals.

“It depends on their roles, responsibilities, and how much time they’re allotted for what we call business enablement — not just enterprise IT but actually helping the organization do what matters,” Medeiros says. “It can be things like cost efficiency, but it’s also new products and services that data and analytics supports and can call out.”

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Indeed, Rita Sallam, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, says that by 2026 more than a quarter of Fortune 500 CDAOs will have become responsible for at least one data- and analytics-based product that becomes a top earner for their company.

To get there, though, Medeiros says CDAOs must prioritize strategy over tactics. While tactical elements such as data quality and data security are important, improving effectiveness relies on aligning the data and analytics function with organizational strategic priorities and selling the data and analytics vision to key influencers like the CEO, CIO, and CFO.

“Most CDAOs are delivering on immediate-term business goals, but for around half of CDAOs surveyed, delivery against goals for future-term growth and sustainability is lagging,” Medeiros says.

She notes that the most successful data leaders are focusing on improving decision-making capabilities, monetization of data products, and cost optimization, as well as improving data literacy and fostering a data-driven culture.

Chief Data Officer, Data Management, IT Leadership

CIO Talvis Love has weathered a tsunami of rapid and significant changes at Baxter International over the past year — with little reprieve in sight.

In late 2021, the med tech company completed the $12.4 billion acquisition of Hillrom, the largest in its history, to expand the company’s digital health and connected care offerings. While Love and his 3,500-person IT team were working on that integration, the company announced in January 2023 plans to spin off its acute care and renal units, which is about a third of the business. One month later, Baxter began changing its operating model and restructuring the remaining company.

“Those are huge, significant changes that require us to pivot and adjust our approach, and tech is the linchpin to all of them,” says Love, senior vice president and CIO of Baxter. So he’s fast-forwarding his plan to embed IT within business teams to make these critical transitions. “The only way we can meet our goals is having the IT and business teams working close together as part of one team.”

Talvis Love, CIO, Baxter International

Baxter International

The need to strengthen business and IT collaboration tops the list of priorities that CEOs have for their CIOs this year, according to Foundry’s 2023 State of the CIO survey. As organizations face macroeconomic uncertainty and rapid changes to market conditions, collaboration between IT and business units are crucial to making those transitions quickly and smoothly.

Security, customer experience, and business and digital transformations also made CEOs’ top priorities lists for their CIOs this year. IT leaders describe how those priorities are playing out in their IT organizations today.

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Upgrading IT and data security

CIOs always have cyber and information security somewhere on their priority lists, but global turbulence with China and Russia have many CEOs taking notice too. More than a quarter of CEOs want CIOs to upgrade IT and data security to reduce corporate risk in the next 12 months, according to the survey. 

Cybersecurity became a bigger issue this year for Josh Hamit, senior VP and CIO at Altra Federal Credit Union, due in part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which touched off warnings about possible Russia-backed hackers stepping up cyberattacks on US targets. As a result, Hamit has brought extra attention to partnering with Altra’s CISO to perfect security fundamentals, cyber hygiene and best practices, and layered defenses.

More likely cyber scenarios have IT leaders increasingly concerned as well. For instance, three out of four global businesses expect an email-borne attack will have serious consequences for their organization in the coming year, according to CSO Online’s State of Email Security report. Hybrid work has led to more email (82% of companies report a higher volume of email in 2022) and that has incentivized threat actors to steal data through a proliferation of social engineering attacks, shifting their focus from targeting the enterprise network itself to capitalizing on the vulnerable behaviors of individual employees. This will require hardening email and collaboration tool defenses and response capabilities, but also securing the data they’re seeking.

Improving the customer experience

Customer and employee experience have become central tenets for successful digital transformation, and about a quarter of CEOs are continuing to invest in technologies and processes that improve the customer journey, according to the State of the CIO survey.

JP Saini’s top initiative at Sunbelt Rentals is “the obsession with our customers,” he says. For Saini, CIO and chief digital and technology officer, this means humanizing the business and technology aspects of each worker’s job and serving each persona — whether that’s the office workers, salespeople, equipment rental specialists in the stores, technicians, or even drivers, he says. Then he dissects each persona-based journey to understand what they go through in doing their daily jobs. That way “you’re designing a [technology or digital process] based on what they need,” to create greater efficiencies, he says.  

JP Saini, chief digital and technology officer, Sunbelt Rentals

Sunbelt Rentals

Leading business and digital transformations

Nearly a quarter of CEOs place business and digital transformations as a top-three priority for their CIOs.

CIO Max Chan’s digital mandate at electronic components distributor Avnet is driving improvement in the supply chain and design chain. As a distributor that sits between its supplier partners and downstream customers, “we have all the demand and supply signals that we can help navigate, and then we can apply that to solve these supply chain challenges that everyone is having,” he says.

Max Chan, CIO, Avnet


To that end, Chan’s team is working on machine-to-machine frictionless transactions between suppliers and customers, and creating a single pane of glass for suppliers to solve issues more easily. In the design chain, “we’re creating design capabilities where stakeholders can get together and come up with new designs faster to ultimately help enable customers to go more quickly to market,” he says.

New digital transformation projects will help foster more autonomy for employees at the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County. CIO Charisse Richards wants to empower the business to handle some technical tasks on their own without IT intervention. So she’s prioritized a ServiceNow implementation to automate tasks and give employees more control.  

Charisse Richards, CIO, Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County

Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County

“We have a lot of people that call and email the service desk,” Richards says. “I want to see a reduction in the time that the helpdesk spends in those rote tasks — entering tickets and answering calls — and spend more time with our high-touch customers,” namely judges, she says. “We’re not getting more money for additional staff, so we need to be more efficient.”

Helping reach revenue growth goals

The CIO’s role continues to evolve from focusing only on uptime and availability, to cost-cutting and efficiency gains, to now holding a key position in the C-suite where technology influences every part of the organization. One in five CEOs now place corporate revenue growth as a top priority for their CIOs, according to the survey.

CIO Ajay Sabhlok believes his mandate is “to figure out how to generate revenue” for security technology vendor Rubrik. One example is the company’s lead-to-cash process. Data showed the company wasn’t closing expected orders, which was showing up as lost revenue in quarterly reports, Sabhlok says. So he and his team identified the need for a more advanced opportunity management process that has an engine for more accurate scoring of business leads, automates manual tasks that were holding up orders, and delivers data-driven insights through user-friendly dashboards. The result: more leads converted to sales, which boosted quarterly revenue figures.

Savvy CIOs should already be steps ahead of CEOs on these priorities and shouldn’t wait to be asked, says Baxter’s Love. “Create a deep understanding of what’s driving the business. Understand how your company makes money and how that’s changing over time, and what are the biz leaders’ goals and priorities,” Love says. “Don’t wait to ask to be at the table. Sometimes IT leaders wait to get asked to the party. I say invite yourself.”

IT Leadership