With digital technology increasingly vital to business, the CIO role is quickly evolving, placing IT leaders under threat from business executives who offer the blend of business and technical savvy necessary to lead transformational strategies in the future.

A recent report by market intelligence firm IDC has placed IT leaders at a crossroads, predicting that, by 2026, 60% of APAC CIOs will find their roles challenged by LOB (line-of-business) counterparts who can better demonstrate the ability to align technology with the organization’s mission and customers.

Already under pressure to accelerate digital transformation, CIOs now often find their voices drowned out by LOB executives who are heavily involved in making technology decisions, according to the report. This trend could leave CIOs vulnerable to decreased influence over the corporate technical agenda, or pushed into a secondary C-suite role.

Narottam Sharma, who recently quit his role as global CIO of Indian multinational Mastek to advise enterprises on digital transformation, cuts to the heart of the issue: “Technology is getting democratization but the pace at which business is learning technology is faster than the pace at which technology is learning business. As a result, CIOs find their roles being challenged by LOB counterparts.”

Increasingly fragmented technology budgets and transformation strategies could accelerate this crisis, he says.

“The fallout of this is challenging for CEOs as it results in distribution of money in different pockets within an organization,” Sharma says. “Also, there is a lack of cohesive and holistic transformation in the company, which eventually hinders realization of collective value for the organization”

The growing stature of LOBs

Malaysia-based Ts Saiful Bakhtiar Osman, head of IT for Asia Pacific at financial services company The Ascent Group, has experienced this situation first hand, to damaging results.

“I have been in this situation in the past when frustrated LOB managers resorted to lobbying, by using speed-to-market as an excuse, with the top management for allowing them to proceed with their own initiatives,” Osman says. “Such bulldozing without proper planning and IT best practices in place led to the initiative backfiring. IT was later dragged in to clean up the mess.”

“This not only added unnecessary workload to IT but also exposed the organization to unnecessary incompliance audit findings and threat vulnerabilities. Had IT been consulted from the beginning, it would have saved the company time and cost to combat all the bugs and security issues. The IT security governance standard is put there for a reason,” he says.

Still, Osman agrees that active participation from LOBs can have positive impact as well, provided proper controls are in place. Business would be able to grow rapidly with LOB executives leading initiatives in their area of expertise. And nurturing ownership from business executives can also mitigate pushback. “In the absence of control, the enterprise would be at risk due to shadow IT and the IT department can turn into a convenient scapegoat to be blamed for any failed initiatives,” he says.

Naren Gangavarapu, CIO and digital officer at Northern Beaches Council, a local government organisation in Sydney, is all for this trend, seeing the shift not as a “passing fad that is temporary” but as something CIOs should expect will become the new normal.

“This is the direction businesses should be heading to,” he says. “Right now, most organisations have multiple strategies such as digital strategy, IT strategy, security strategy, business strategy, and corporate strategy. To get these to work in a harmonious way is a challenge and they end up collecting dust and reviewed once a year or more thus losing relevancy in a fast-changing world. There should be only one strategy and that is ‘strategy for the digital world.’ Advances in AI and quantum computing will further put LOBs in the driver’s seat.”

In his previous role, Gangavarapu was embedded in business where he was responsible for delivering efficiencies, which involved leading digital transformation initiatives within the LOB (Department of Planning). He was able to “halve assessment timeframes for state significant projects resulting in $18 billion dollars of investment into New South Wales creating 59,000 jobs during FY 18/19.”

How CIOs can remain relevant

Even as LOB executives get more tech savvy, the past few years have proven how critical the CIO role is for businesses to stay resilient and execute on their digital transformation strategies.  

To ward off LOB heads from their turf, Linus Lai, chief analyst and digital business research lead at IDC A/NZ, says CIOs must be able to demonstrate to other members of the C-suite how their actions and decisions directly boost the bottom and top lines. CIOs should also build stakeholder relationships within LOBs and leverage business relationship managers to better serve customer-facing organizations.

“CIOs will have to ensure effective joint business outcomes from IT and LOBs by delivering strategic digital business advice and enabling effective upwards communication. They must initiate a critical review of sourcing practices to manage the supplier ecosystem to maintain architectural goals and spending targets. Also, IT leaders will need to manage technical debt across the application portfolio with agile portfolio management and value stream mapping,” he says.

For CIOs to hold their own, Sharma says IT leaders can’t stop at business acumen, but instead must develop great interpersonal skills and be able to lead people in a cross-functional and cross-geographical environment. They should also be able to leverage emerging technologies to lend business a competitive edge.

To do this in his former roles as CIO, Sharma created a cross-functional decision committee comprising functional leaders, such as the CFO and CHRO, and technical leaders, such as the CIO or head of applications. “That helped in democratizing the process and enabling a smooth sale though and execution of any project,” he says.

Gangavarapu says such efforts are vital for addressing this trend, which includes “a shift in technology resources’ mindset to a new direction by preparing them to blend into the LOBs through awareness, training, and a culture shift. Besides recruiting a digital-savvy workforce for the future that is aligned to customer expectations, CIOs should themselves gear up to become an advisory function,” he says.

To do this, Gangavarapu has established a digital council at Northern Beaches Council to get the board, which consists of 15 Councillors who are elected by the community, to buy into his vision and direction. He is updating the workforce strategy and capability framework, which outlines the digital skills expected of each new hire based on their role.

“We are decentralizing budget from IT back to individual business units where they have ownership and drive the lifecycle of the contract and services. We also embed skills into LOB resources on an ongoing basis so that they are equipped to handle technology changes, compliance, and regulatory shifts around technology,” he says. “Here IT is taking an advisory role and LOBs are taking the lead. By connecting LOBs to market innovators in respective areas, with IT support, we encourage innovation.”

According to Gangavarapu, these initiatives have resulted in quite a few LOBs being self-sufficient and running their own digital initiatives with centralized coordination from IT.

Measuring progress during this journey, he shares that “employee engagement went up by 9%, wellbeing up by 13%, progress up by 18%, and customer satisfaction score shift from 71% in 2019 to 88% in 2022.”

What the future CIO role could look like

It is a given that CIOs in the future will perform beyond their IT functions. With the recent pandemic and the increasing push for digital transformation, CIOs are already wearing multiple hats to help evolve the business. “CIOs are now required to become a marketing strategist, a business analyst, a finance advisor, and an operation expert while delivering their core expertise as an IT champion. This is the way ahead and CIOs need to keep on upgrading, reskilling, and upskilling to stay relevant,” Osman says.

Going forward, there will be opportunities for CIOs to step into other CXO functions to add value and stay relevant, and this imperative will apply to all other technology resources who will realise that they cannot work siloed in a standalone IT business unit anymore but must be embedded in the LOB, understand context, and be able to add value.

As Gangavarapu says, “Digital and technology function will get embedded into LOBs driving strategies and offering products and services for the digital world. The function of information technology teams will reduce as quite a few will move to the LOBs and IT will end up running the plumbing works such as infrastructure, communications, and cybersecurity. [Cross-functional teams] will become a core ingredient of a succeeding in a digital world.”

And this shift to embedded IT will further transform the CIO role, Gangavarapu says.

“Driving digital adoption in business is easier being a part of business rather than driving from IT, as it is seen as external — someone is doing this to us — instead, ‘We are driving this’; hence, CIOs must start picking up roles in LOBs with various titles such as chief translation officer, chief digital advisory officer, or chief innovation officer,” he says.

IT leaders not willing to change may soon be out of luck, Sharma says, as he sees the CIO role getting replaced, unless they acquire the necessary skills to remain relevant, by that of a chief transformation officer, who would work closely with the CEO and act as a bridge between the CIO office and LOBs.

“The chief transformation officers will identify business transformation opportunities within the enterprise and will work closely with the business. The arrangement would be such that the ownership of the project will lie with the respective LOBs while the company-level value creation and competitive edge will be jointly shared between them,” he says, adding that the CIO could become the chief custodian or chief architect, and if unable to add any value to the board, the CIO may end up reporting to the chief transformation officer.

IDC’s Lai agrees.

“I believe the role of the CIO will evolve to being a chief business technology officer role, which many CIOs may find challenging, but is one where they are partners to the business to deliver on the promise of new digital business and operating models,” he says.

“C-level executives are increasing their focus on profitability and improved operational efficiency by concentrating on enhancing employee productivity, innovation, and time to market,” he says. “If CIOs are to play a technology/business orchestration role in the leadership team, part of that effort will involve building or strengthening relationships with business counterparts.”


Leadership is not something that just happens. Leadership must be measured, managed, and invested in. After all, how IT leaders are selected, trained, evaluated, and compensated materially impacts the future performance of the enterprise.

So, again, when was the last time you had a substantive conversation about leadership with your direct reports? How frequently do you critically examine whether your IT/digital organization is well led? What set of metrics does your organization employ to evaluate IT/digital leaders?

The IT industry is undergoing a crisis of confidence. This is due in no small part to the erroneous presumption that IT and digital organizations have their leadership game in order. Quality leadership is not something that can be taken for granted. It’s time to turn an analytical eye to the state of leadership in our industry — and here are five key questions IT leaders must ask themselves to truly know whether they are successfully leading IT.

Is your focus on point?

Daniel Barchi, Naval Academy grad and award-winning CIO at CommonSpirit Health, explained to me that there are three areas IT leaders can allocate their time: People, process, and technology. Barchi suggests the optimal allocation for IT leaders is 80% people, 15% process, and 5% technology. Unfortunately, many IT leaders — especially those of the order-taker type — invert that triumvirate, placing the lion’s share of their focus on technology.

Are you and your direct reports allocating enough time to leading people?

Are your people primed for success?

In Good to Great, Jim Collins suggests that decisions about people — who is on the bus — have to precede decisions about objectives — i.e., where the bus is going. Several CIOs have shared with me the anecdote regarding how Apple design icon Jonathan Ives typically responds to the question, “What’s the secret to your design success?” Ives reportedly responded, “We fire the A- people.” The point being that a group of passionate high performers is what is necessary to deliver the sought-for end state.

Talent is a differentiator. Are your IT leaders doing everything it takes to attract, nurture, grow, and retain the kind of talent necessary to succeed?

Are you helping your organization ‘see the future’?

Barbara Cooper was the beloved and now retired CIO at Toyota Motors North America. Having served as an IT leader in five industries, she is one of the top CIO “coaches” in North America. Barbara counseled me that it is not enough just to have a vision of the future. Our industry is too full of sic “transformational” CIOs being airlifted into enterprises only to slink away 18 to 24 months later having abjectly failed to create digital value.

Creating IT value requires a team effort. One has to get the organization to internalize and unite behind a collective vision of the future. Barbara jokingly quipped that “as a child of the ’60s” she learned that while you “can’t share the trip” — i.e., one person’s vision is not enough — you can get everyone moving in a common direction. To do this she set her direct reports down one day in the conference room:

“Ok, I want you to think out three years. ’Cuz five is a little much. I want you to pretend that you are driving into the parking lot. You are walking into your office. You are going to go through your day. You are going to have your first meeting of the day. You are talking to somebody in the door. You go and get your coffee. You have a series of hallway conversations. You are thinking about some of the things and the problems you have. I want you to play that out — almost like a storyboard in your head — what is going to be different three years from now?”

These individual visions were shared, consolidated, amplified, and linked to enterprise objectives.

Is that kind of collective vision-making part of your company culture?

Are you emphasizing the value of relationships?

Most of the voluminous academic literature on leadership focuses on the traits/idiosyncrasies of the individual leader and not on their relationships with key associates. As an IT leader, do you have a track record of helping or hindering colleagues in fulfilling their career objectives?

Vince Kellen, a digital force of nature and CIO at University of California San Diego, borrows insights from NHL scouts. He is looking for IT “skaters” who, when they step onto the ice, make the other four teammates better hockey players.

How leaders view themselves and others and how they are viewed by others is a critical causal driver of leadership success or failure. Tony Blair was able to reverse a multi-decade decline in Labour Party electoral success when he realized, “People judge us on their instincts about what they believe our instincts to be. And that man polishing his car was clear: His instincts were to get on in life, and he thought our instincts were to stop him.”

Leadership success requires connectedness to the community. How connected are your IT leaders throughout the ranks?

Are you effective at making a positive impact?

Franklin Pierce, America’s 14th president, is viewed by most historians as being one of the very worst presidents. Every action he took “made things worse,” as was discussed on “The First 15,” Episode 93 of the American POTUS podcast.

Have your actions made things better or worse?

Business IT Alignment, IT Leadership

For many of today’s global enterprises, it’s a struggle to adapt quickly to emerging challenges.

With supply chain issues and the impending recession, digital transformation remains a pressing strategic imperative. However, key digital transformation milestones remain out of reach for far too many teams. To make real strides in each of these areas, Value Stream Management (VSM) has emerged as an urgent demand.

Earlier this year, Broadcom commissioned extensive industry research to learn how VSM adoption is evolving and which key trends are emerging in 2023. Conducted by Dimensional Research, this survey polled more than 500 IT and business leaders. Respondents came from five continents and represented a wide range of industries.

The findings from this survey are now available in a report entitled “2023 Value Stream Management Trends.” We’ll offer critical insights from this report in the following sections.

#1. Enterprise leaders are more focused on the customer than ever

When asked about their top strategic business focus for 2023, 58% of respondents cited “increasing customer value,” the highest-rated response. This objective was ranked third in a similar survey conducted the previous year.

The report’s authors state, “It now seems companies are shifting focus from rushing products to market that risk decreasing customer value with defects, bugs, or quality problems to a clear focus on maximizing customer delight with value and quality.”

#2. A disconnect between business and IT is impeding the attainment of key objectives

As they look at their challenges heading into 2023, senior leaders can be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents say their businesses continued to be plagued by a long-standing issue: the disconnect between software development and business strategy. An even higher percentage of technology teams, 72%, are frustrated by business leaders’ constant changing of business priorities.

Since the advent of the pandemic, supply chains have presented challenges for businesses in a range of industries—and supply chains remain the highest-ranked challenge as teams enter 2023. Forty-nine percent of respondents said ensuring their company has reliable supply chains is a top challenge.  

#3. VSM adoption is widespread and growing

Today, the consensus around VSM is nearly unanimous: 92% agree that VSM can help optimize the product lifecycle. Further, 86% have adopted VSM or plan to. By the end of 2023, 60% of organizations will be shipping products using VSM.

The survey also revealed that digital transformation initiatives are tightly aligned with VSM. Ninety-five percent of organizations currently pursuing VSM initiatives are also pursuing digital transformation.

#4. VSM is delivering significant benefits for digital transformation

For teams that have implemented VSM, a vast majority of respondents, 95%, report that VSM has helped deliver key benefits. When asked what benefits VSM has already shown, six responses were selected by one-third or more survey participants. Topping the list were increased transparency (42%), improved organizational alignment (39%), faster delivery of solutions to customers (38%), and enhanced data-driven decision-making (37%)—which can all be integral to advancing digital transformation.

The research shows that those building VSM capabilities are seeing an improved ability to measure and track customer value, which, as outlined earlier, is the top strategic imperative for leaders.


This recent survey offers some compelling proof points of the power of VSM. As we head into 2023, the businesses that have established VSM practices are better positioned to achieve their digital transformation objectives and deliver more value to customers. To learn more, download the report “2023 Value Stream Management Trends.”


Explore ValueOps Value Stream Management, built to manage what you value most.

Digital Transformation

CIOs supporting a hybrid mix of in-office and remote workers, and those who float between, need to implement new tools and strategies to get it right. But they will also need to change how they think about hybrid work, which analyst firm Forrester characterizes as “messy” even as it says 51% of organizations are moving in this direction.

Hybrid work is often thought of in terms of location, according to a November Gartner report. “If leaders focus on location alone, they’ll miss much larger benefits … including flexible experiences, intentional collaboration, and empathy-based management,’’ the report cautions.

Adopting a flexible, human-centric approach that puts people at the center of work will lead to better employee performance, lower fatigue, and intent to stay, according to the firm.

“Even if skeptical leaders are less concerned about fatigue and retention of talent in today’s tight economic climate, they care about performance,” says Graham Waller, a distinguished vice president analyst at Gartner. “Leaders too often are making future of work decisions based on instincts and feelings today. This can be a big mistake as the way we used to work won’t anymore.” 

Unfortunately, when it comes to supporting hybrid workforces and anticipating how organizations will conduct work in the future, CIOs will likely make a number of mistakes before they successfully facilitate the optimal workplace for their organizations in 2023 and beyond. Here are the most likely culprits.

Shortchanging your return-to-office strategy

Remote work caused a great deal of Zoom fatigue in 2022, driven by factors such as a lack of manager coaching on how to connect with teams remotely, says Rebecca Wettemann, principal at tech analyst firm Valoir Research, not to mention the exhaustion and burn out of channeling employees’ every interaction through a screen.

But as employees have come back to the office anticipating the benefits of in-person interactions, many have been disappointed, thanks to an organization not fully prepared for their arrival, she says, despite, in many cases, mandates to do so.

“The biggest tech fail was expecting folks to come back to the office without sophisticated scheduling for knowledge workers, who found themselves commuting to the office to find there was no one there they needed/wanted to see,’’ Wettemann says.

Moving forward, leaders need to include “more presence monitoring and prediction so when people do come to the office they can meet with teams in person,’’ she says. They should also incorporate “a more data-driven approach to scheduling that ensures hybrid work supports diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a more line-of-work focused collaboration strategy rather than a one-size-fits-all-job functions approach,’’ Wettemann says.

Kim Huffman, CIO of global travel expense management platform TripActions, learned firsthand that not having a framework for what the return to the office would look like meant employees did not get the benefits of the in-person experience.

“Things get messy … when you don’t have any structure around the return to work,’’ she says, adding that having no formal construct for returning to the office was a “lesson learned’’ for her and other TripActions company leaders, and since then, “we’ve organized ourselves a little bit better.”

Eroding the culture of trust and connectedness

Kim Huffman, CIO, TripActions


Productivity questions were one “bubbling point of tension” Huffman encountered as part of TripActions’ return-to-office experience. On the one hand, workers who came back to the office felt like they were not as productive, while the people leading teams felt the same about people working remotely, Huffman says.

“It has exacerbated this phenomenon of what really is driving productivity: Is it being in the office or being at home?’’ she says. “There are varying points of view that are being hotly contested across tech companies in the Bay Area right now, and it’s going to be a very interesting journey to watch over the course of the next two quarters.”

Because some people have come back to the office, Huffman believes there is still a stubborn perception that the ones who don’t come back are not as productive. IT leaders need to anticipate this tension and get ahead of it, to ensure not only that employees can remain productive wherever they are but that the organization’s culture of trust doesn’t deteriorate.

Here, the key is ensuring a culture of connectedness, Gartner contends. “IT leaders and employees … overwhelmingly feel that culture connectedness is primarily driven by day-to-day work interactions, and not from being in the office,” according to the firm, which found that 58% of IT workers strongly believe that meaningful connections are based on day-to-day interactions, not where they are located, with only 21% of IT workers agreeing that connectedness is driven by being in the office.

Failing to level the playing field

With hybrid meetings on the rise, there’s a delicate balance to maintain between how your organization serves participants attending meetings in person and those who attend remotely.

Jamie Smith, CIO, University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix CIO Jamie Smith, for example, has seen that hybrid meetings have “deepened the chasm” between people who have been coming into the office and those who have remained remote. “We found people on the remote end felt they were less than … because they didn’t have the option to come into Phoenix,’’ he says.

To counteract that, for every meeting with an in-person option, leaders will now do a second purely remote meeting “so everyone feels they’re on the same playing field,’’ he says.

The university uses Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, but plans to deepen its use of whiteboard technology with a tool called Miro that “feels like you’re collaborating in the same room,’’ Smith says.

Smith’s IT team is always looking for tools to help the university’s employees be asynchronous, he adds, given that they now have employees in more time zones. This means “just having to live with those realities where we didn’t before,’’ which has “forced us in this asynchronous mode,” he says.

Overlooking the innovation factor

And it’s not just the employee experience that can be hindered by poorly conceived hybrid strategies. Innovation efforts can also falter when collaboration experiences are uneven.

Bess Healy, CIO, Synchrony


Early on in hybrid work at consumer finance company Synchrony, CIO Bess Healy says she and other company leaders “quickly learned that hybrid innovation requires a different level of facilitation to succeed.”

Events that had previously been all day in person felt draining to team members on video, Healy says, “so we split them up over multiple days. When we competed in events like hackathons, team members missed the camaraderie of eating together at all hours of the night, so we replicated that with meal credits wherever they are.”

Company leaders also put a higher emphasis on “planned fun” by playing games in person and taking a “brain break during an ideation event.”

“Three years in, these changes have brought more people into our innovation teams than ever before, inspiring new ideas in metaverse, payments, customer experience, and more,’’ Healy says.

Not reimagining the office to fit the new hybrid paradigm

It’s important to give people an incentive to want to come back into an office and be together. One approach some organizations are taking is to design office spaces differently instead of just rows of desks or cubicles.

“One of our offices is new and we’re trying to build space where there’s room for conversations and groups to get together, not just all desks,’’ says Huffman. Leaders should make it a priority to reimagine office layouts this year, she says.

Being slow to experiment with future tech

Virtual reality is one technology that could have an impact on the future of work, and some IT leaders are considering the benefits.

Oculus headsets from Meta, for example, are being rolled out on a trial basis at the University of Phoenix, which has made the decision to go fully remote. This was a big mindset change for Smith, who felt pre-pandemic that “face-to-face collaboration was better and high fidelity for creativity purposes,’’ he says. “Then, when everything shifted to full-time remote, it went against my core beliefs, so personally, I had to lean in.”

Smith has come to realize that staying remote has not affected IT’s ability to collaborate and teams have been able to remain productive and launch “complex new products into the marketplace.” He says that working remotely has increased his ability to access tech talent outside of the Phoenix area.

But when people were working in a hybrid model early on, there would be multiple conversations going on, and “people on the remote end were getting the short end of the stick” because they “couldn’t get a word in edgewise,’’ Smith recalls.

So he hired his first audio engineer who revamped the majority of the university’s meeting technology. The Oculus headsets are being tested by some teams in their daily standup design sessions to see whether they will help the teams work better. The idea is to understand whether “tools get in the way or do they help?’’ he says. “A lot of [collaboration] technologies are still pretty early in terms of capabilities.”

Some initial feedback is that using a physical keyboard in the headset is problematic, but Smith says the experiment will continue in early 2023. “The expense isn’t that much but the question is, Is it a toy or something that fundamentally changes the [remote work] experience?”

Not bringing IT to bear on the office of the future

In addition to rethinking the office and having a sound return-to-office strategy, IT leaders would be wise to invest in technologies tailored to facilitate better hybrid work experiences.

Robin Hamerlinck Lane, SVP and CIO, Shure


At audio electronics company Shure, leaders have “spent a significant amount of time listening to our employees about hybrid work” and subsequently developed a plan called “WorkPlace Now” based on what they learned, says Robin Hamerlinck Lane, senior vice president and CIO.

Employees are free to choose a hybrid work model, and Hamerlinck Lane says company officials have made adjustments for the future workforce by providing different tools for them to adapt.

For example, “we moved to flexible seating in our global offices, so hybrid workers could still have a space to work when they came into the office. With the iOffice app, employees can reserve their workspaces in advance or when they arrive,’’ she says.

IT has developed a ticket system where employees who work remotely can request a remote kit that includes tools to be able to work effectively outside of the office and still remain connected to others, she says.

In 2023, IT will roll out Teams in more conference rooms. “We are especially interested in leveraging camera views and panels that provide equality in our meeting experiences between offsite and onsite associates,’’ Hamerlinck Lane says.

Hybrid work is here to stay, and this also requires looking at adding new layers of security, she says. IT is also thinking about the company’s telecom needs long-term. “Associates have migrated to mobile and/or IP-based telephony, and so we need to look at evolving the traditional desk phone,” she says.

Underestimating the power of low-code/no code

Among several IT initiatives for Shure in 2023 will be prioritizing citizen development with low-code/no-code, Hamerlinck Lane says. Another is building a platform on AWS to enable the company’s development teams as software is migrated to the cloud and to support IoT products. Shure is also investing in Office 365.

“Our entire data program is built to enable data and end-user tools to allow end-user empowerment.”

Kellogg’s Senior Vice President and Global CIO Lesley Salmon agrees, saying that as the demand for apps continues to grow, citizen development will become the norm to help people work more efficiently, and they will soon start using Microsoft’s low-code Power Platform.

“We’ll enable and encourage our organization to develop their own apps by building a community approach to learning and support,” she says.

And what better way to foster the future of work than to empower employees to improve work processes themselves.

Collaboration Software, IT Leadership, Staff Management

The last thing any CIO wants is to experience catastrophic operational issues during a peak season, but that’s exactly what executives at Southwest Airlines faced last week. While weather may have been the root cause, the 16,000 flights canceled between Dec. 19-28 far exceeded any other airlines’ operational impacts.

Experts point to Southwest’s point-to-point operating model as problematic in recovering from major weather issues compared to the hub-and-spoke model used by many major airlines. But Southwest’s technology was also cited by experts and the company’s leadership as contributing to the calamity. “IT and infrastructure from the 1990s,” said Casey A. Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, and “Southwest has always been a laggard when it comes to technology,” according to Helane Becker, an aviation analyst with Cowen.

Even before the blizzard hit, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan acknowledged on Nov. 30, “We’re behind. As we’ve grown, we’ve outrun our tools. If you’re in an airport, there’s a lot of paper, just turning an aircraft.”

Surely many more details about this failure will surface over the next several months. CIOs know that tech issues get the trigger finger of blame when businesses experience operational disasters, but we also know there are culture and process issues that can be primary and often untold contributors — both well within the CIO’s purview.

So, I’ll use this opportunity to point out what questions CIOs should be asking about their enterprises based on what we can already discern from last week’s Southwest Airlines IT disaster.  

1. Are you investing enough in digital transformation?

Southwest Airlines recently announced a quarterly dividend that will pay out to shareholders starting Jan. 31 what amounts to $428 million a year. They also received $7 billion in pandemic aid and performed $5.6 billion in stock buybacks between 2017 and 2019.

And how much are they investing in their digital transformation? In 2017, Fast Company wrote that Southwest Airlines’ digital transformation “takes off” with an $800 million technology overhaul, but only $300 million was dedicated to new technology for operations.

The investment seems minuscule given that Southwest Airlines was a $33-$38 billion market capitalization airline in 2017. Its market cap has dropped significantly since then, but considering what’s being spent on buybacks and dividends, shouldn’t they have invested more to accelerate their transformation?

And that’s my question for CIOs: Are you investing enough in digital transformation? Do you have strong relationships with the other top executives and the board to raise the bar if your enterprise lags behind competitors or if legacy systems and technical debt pose a significant operational risk?

While CIOs must recession-proof their digital transformation priorities, underinvesting and slowing down can negatively affect customers, employees, and financial results. And if that doesn’t sway the executive committee, perhaps Southwest’s near 16% drop in stock price over December and the fear of having to respond to a federal investigation will get their attention.

2. What tools and protocols aid communications during a crisis?

According to CEO Jordan, Southwest does not have a quick, automated way to contact crew members who get reassigned. “Someone needs to call them or chase them down in the airport and tell them,” he said.

I’m having a hard time believing that Southwest, let alone any major enterprise, doesn’t have technologies and automated procedures to reach employees to inform them of operational changes. And during a crisis, organizations should have procedures outlined by human resources and supported by multiple technologies to reach employees, ensure their safety, and provide protocols to support operations.

Another key question is whether call centers are staffed and have scalable technologies to support a massive influx of calls and communications that often happen during a crisis. 

While we should all sympathize with customers impacted by a crisis, organization leaders must also consider employees and their well-being. Murray reported that pilots and crew waited hours to speak to staff about reassignments, and hundreds of pilots and crew members slept in airports next to passengers.

3. How quickly can you realign operations during a crisis?

Looking beyond operations, do leaders and managers have collaboration tools, real-time reporting dashboards, and forecasting machine learning models to aid in decision-making? How often do teams schedule tabletop exercises to play out what-if scenarios? Has IT invested or piloted a digital twin to help model operational changes and support decision-making during a crisis?

Southwest, like other airlines, relies on scheduling software to route pilots, crew, planes, and other equipment. But when things go wrong at a significant scale, relying on manual operations is highly problematic. “It requires a lot more human intervention and human eyesight or brainpower and can only handle so much,” said Brian Brown, president of Transport Workers Union Local 550, representing Southwest dispatchers and meteorologists

4. Is your organization learning from past failures?

This isn’t the first time Southwest Airlines canceled flights and blamed weather issues as one of the causes. They canceled over 1,800 flights over a weekend in 2021 that Southwest’s pilots’ union attributed to management’s “poor planning.”

All too often, you see organizations recover from a crisis, fix a few low-hanging issues, and go back to business as usual. The question for CIOs is whether they can use a crisis to demonstrate a strong enough business case around more holistic improvements.  

5. Does your organization have the culture to support software development?

Developing and maintaining proprietary software and customizations entails an ongoing commitment to talent development, product management disciplines, and DevOps practices. It requires prudent decision-making on what capabilities to invest in and when platforms have reached their end-of-life and require app modernizations.

SkySolver, the software Southwest uses for crew assignment, is a customized off-the-shelf software developed decades ago that the airlines customized. The software is at the root of Southwest’s delays in restoring operations, and I suspect the company’s IT leaders will now have the support to replace it.

Of course, no one wants to wait for a disaster to drive legacy modernizations, especially around complex operational systems. Too much urgency and stress can drive teams to select suboptimal partners, make costly architectural mistakes, or underinvest in scalability, quality, or security.

So the key question for CIOs is how they use this crisis to educate boards and executive committees on the fundamentals of agile software development and cloud operations. Many executives still believe that software development is a one-time investment, that maintenance budgets are discretionary, and that just moving to the cloud will solve IT infrastructure bottlenecks.  

CIOs know never to waste a good crisis to drive mindset changes. Using today’s headlines to ask the tough questions can be a catalyst for gaining new supporters and investment in digital transformation.

IT Leadership

Every day, organizations of every description are deluged with data from a variety of sources, and attempting to make sense of it all can be overwhelming. So a strong business intelligence (BI) strategy can help organize the flow and ensure business users have access to actionable business insights.

“By 2025, it’s estimated we’ll have 463 million terabytes of data created every day,” says Lisa Thee, data for good sector lead at Launch Consulting Group in Seattle. “For businesses to stay in touch with the market, be responsive, and create products that connect with consumers, it’s important to harness the insights that come out of that information.”

BI software helps companies do just that by shepherding the right data into analytical reports and visualizations so that users can make informed decisions. But without the right approach to implementing these tools, organizations still face issues to maximize value and achieve business goals.

Here are six common BI challenges companies face — and how IT can address them.

1. Low user adoption rates

Diana Stout, senior business analyst, Schellman


It’s critical for organizations wanting to realize the benefits of BI tools to get buy-in from all stakeholders straight away as any initial reluctance can result in low adoption rates.

“The number-one issue for our BI team is convincing people that business intelligence will help to make true data-driven decisions,” says Diana Stout, senior business analyst at Schellman, a global cybersecurity assessor based in Tampa, Fl.

To gain employee buy-in, Stout’s team builds BI dashboards to show them how they can easily connect to and interact with their data, as well as visualize it in a meaningful way.

“For example, say a stakeholder thinks one certain product line is the most profitable,” she says. “I can build a dashboard and show them the intelligence that either proves that what they think is correct, or I can prove them wrong and show them why.”

This enables users to see the value in adopting BI tools, according to Stout.

2. Determining which BI delivery method fits best

There are many traditional IT-managed ways to deliver reports and insights from data. But by utilizing self-service BI tools, with more intuitive dashboards and UIs, companies can streamline their processes by letting managers and other non-technical staff better wield reports and, therefore, derive increased business value from the data.

Axel Goris, global visual analytics lead, Novartis


There can be obstacles, however, to taking the self-service approach. Having too much access across many departments, for example, can result in a kitchen full of inexperienced cooks running up costs and exposing the company to data security problems. And do you want your sales team making decisions based on whatever data it gets, and having the autonomy to mix and match to see what works best? Central, standardized control over tool rollout is key. And to do it correctly, IT needs to govern the data well.

Because of these tradeoffs, organizations must ensure they select the BI approach best-suited for the business application at hand.

“We have more than 100,000 associates in addition to externals working for us, and that’s quite a large user group to serve,” says Axel Goris, global visual analytics lead at Novartis, the multinational pharmaceutical corporation based in Basel, Switzerland. “A key challenge was organization around delivery — how do you organize delivery, because a pharmaceutical company is highly regulated.”

An IT-managed BI delivery model, Goris explains, requires a lot of effort and process, which wouldn’t work for some parts of the business.

“That’s because they feel it’s overly complex; there’s too much overhead, and they want to move faster and be more agile,” Goris says. “And if IT is the go-to place for delivery, then IT becomes a bottleneck because we’re not big enough to do the delivery for everyone.”

To deal with this challenge, Novartis implemented both types of delivery: the IT-managed method and the self-service, business-managed approach.

“With business-managed delivery, we provide the platforms and tools, and allow the business, within certain parameters, to go on its own, use its preferred vendors, or for teams do it themselves, and that’s very popular,” he says, adding that it all comes down to determining “how we can serve everyone in the business or allow BI users to serve themselves in a way that’s scalable.”

3. To integrate data or not

As organizations find themselves having to integrate data from a variety of data sources both on-premises and in the cloud — which can be a time consuming and complicated process — the demand to simplify the setting-up process increases. But many find other solutions. Lionel LLC, for instance, the American designer and importer of toy trains and model railroads based in Concord, N.C., uses its ERP as its system of record, according to CIO Rick Gemereth.

Rick Gemereth, CIO, Lionel LLC

Lionel LLC

“Our single data source is NetSuite, and we have our entire ERP, our e-commerce, based on NetSuite,” he says. “And one of the benefits of that is we don’t have the challenge of trying to marry data from different sources.” Yet what works for Lionel might not work elsewhere. The challenge is finding the solution that works best for your particular circumstances.

Stout, for instance, explains how Schellman addresses integrating its customer relationship management (CRM) and financial data.

“A lot of business intelligence software pulls from a data warehouse where you load all the data tables that are the back end of the different software,” she says. “Or you have a [BI tool] like Domo, which Schellman uses, that can function as a data warehouse. You can connect to the software and it’ll pull it into a table. Then you have all those tables in one place so you can grab the information and fiddle with it.”

Jim Hare, distinguished VP and analyst at Gartner, says that some people think they need to take all the data siloed in systems in various business units and dump it into a data lake.

“But what they really need to do is fundamentally rethink how data is managed and accessed,” he says. “What Gartner is writing about is the concept of a data fabric.”

Defined as an enabler of frictionless access of data sharing in a distributed data environment, data fabric aims to help companies access, integrate, and manage their data no matter where that data is stored using semantic knowledge graphs, active metadata management, and embedded machine learning. “Data fabric allows the data to reside in different types of repositories in the cloud or on prem,” Hare says. “It’s about being able to find relevant data and connect it through a knowledge graph. And key to this is the metadata management.”

4. Allowing perfect to be the enemy of good enough

Conventional wisdom says companies need to work with high-quality data to glean insights necessary to make the best business decisions. But that’s not quite accurate, says Nicole Miara, digital transformation lead at LKQ Europe GmbH, a subsidiary of LKQ Corp. and a leading distributor of automotive aftermarket parts based in Zug, Switzerland.

Just because you don’t think the data is of the highest quality doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.

Nicole Miara, digital transformation lead, LKQ Europe GmbH

LKQ Europe GmbH

When it comes to making decisions, a company’s desire to obtain perfect data can slow its efforts as they spend time gathering as much of it as possible, fixing incomplete data or correcting formats. It’s difficult to have perfect data, but possible for organizations to work with and analyze imperfect data to start translating it into business insights, according to Miara. She cites how with Project Zebra, an open-sourced think tank composed of business leaders, academics, and technologists working to drive supply chain improvement, she was able to use imperfect data to make good business decisions and significantly improve the supply chain.

“Data doesn’t have to be perfect to start the journey,” she says. “It’s a step-by-step approach.” Plus, she adds, you can’t make predictions if you don’t have the basic data layer.

For example, LKQ Europe was trying to apply its data, including sales data, to improve its supply chain operations in light of 35 months of disruption it experienced due to the pandemic. However, the company only had data on its sales history for about 12 months.

“We took invoice data, and we didn’t have additional information regarding our sales, so we took that imperfect sales data and tried to find correlations to our future business,” Miara says. “But we wanted to understand if we could improve our forecasting to predict demand based on that data alone. We found that our imperfect data correlated very well with outside signals, such as inflation and the employment index, even though the data wasn’t perfect.”

5. Dealing with resistance to change

Change management was the number-one struggle Happy Feet International faced implementing business intelligence, says Nick Schwartz, CIO of the luxury vinyl plank and tile flooring company based in Ringgold, Ga.

Nick Schwartz, CIO, Happy Feet International

Happy Feet International

The flooring industry is a technological infant and, as such, a lot of people don’t use technology, according to Schwartz. In fact, when Schwartz joined the company three years ago, salespeople didn’t even use email on a day-to-day basis since they were more comfortable conducting business over the phone.

“People are used to doing things a certain way,” he says. “They’ve been doing it that way for years and they ask why you’re trying to do it a different way. So we have to simplify the experience as much as possible for them, and also hold longer training sessions.”

6. Data governance consistency

Organizations need to ensure they have mature data governance processes in place, including master data management as well as governance around key metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), says Justin Gillespie, principal and chief data scientist at The Hackett Group, a research advisory and consultancy firm.

“We all hear the horror stories,” he says. “Every company I talk to all have the same problem in that people come to meetings with different numbers and they spend all meeting long arguing about how so and so got his or her number. Having a centralized governed set of KPIs and metrics that are certified by the organization is key.”

Governance is also about standardizing the tools and platforms, according to Gillespie. “From a tools and technologies perspective, it’s rarely about not having tools, it’s usually about having too many tools,” he says. “So companies should standardize on one tool set and then create a proficiency around it.”

Business Intelligence, Change Management, CIO, Data Governance, Data Management, Data Quality, IT Leadership

Prior to joining research firm Gartner in 2008, Irving Tyler was a CIO at IMS Health, and VP and CIO at Quaker Chemical Corporation.

In the late 1990s, he was challenged to address the ‘year 2000’ problem, or Y2K scare, as computer systems were readied for the new millennium, and he saw his skillsets develop in the areas of data centre management and ERP implementation.

That role, he says, is now long gone.

“The role of the CIO has expanded to be a business leader, visionary and architect, someone who can work with other executives effectively, not as a supplier and vendor but as a leader,” said Tyler, leader of Gartner’s CIO research team, at the company’s recent Symposium in Barcelona.

CIO ‘plus’ roles to lead business transformation initiatives

A Gartner study of technology leaders at Global Fortune 500 companies found that approximately 26% still had fundamental ‘run the business’ IT roles overseeing applications and infrastructure, while 30% had ‘plussed’ their role into business responsibilities, from back-office functions to front-facing engineering, product management and research development.

Approximately 44% of the surveyed CIOs and CTOs were now leading business transformation initiatives.

“These were initiatives to change the very core of their enterprises: how they go to market, how they develop goods and services, and how they optimise their supply chain,” said Tyler. “So the role is expanding; the value proposition is changing.”

When asked what kind of work CIOs and CTOs had done beyond atypical technology responsibilities, Gartner’s research found 80% of global Fortune 500 technology leaders were leading business initiatives, with 39% accountable to land the change in areas such as monetizing data to create new revenue, supply chain optimization, talent strategies and creating new digital products.

“These are new value propositions,” said Tyler. “I never would’ve imagined when I became a CIO that someday I’d be expected to lead these kinds of efforts.”

How CIOs find their value proposition

Despite the growing breadth of the CIO’s role, Tyler believes that technology executives can go further still, extending their value and influence within the organization by thinking of themselves less of a service provider and more of a ‘powerful, valuable product’, which senior executives, partners and peers need to do their jobs effectively.

“Product value proposition in business terms is something we develop when we’re trying to create the next generation of goods and services for our customers or citizens—any stakeholder we’re working with,” he said, giving the example that streamlining money could be the value proposition for a start-up financial services firm.

“Your leadership is a product that all of your executive team, partners, peers, and all of the people in your organization needs,” he said.

Tyler also suggested that CIOs must build their own product value proposition to deliver the maximum value to the business, and make a promise to stakeholders of how technology will help them achieve their desired outcomes, adding that technology leaders can take simple steps to start by understanding who consumes IT (most notably the executive board, functional leaders and technologists in and out of the technology team), and by deeply understanding their jobs, and how IT can remove pains and create gains.

“This is what we call value-fit,” he said.

By speaking with these individuals, asking them questions and building a profile of where they are and where they want to get to, CIOs can move beyond simply solving their role to expand their capabilities beyond what they imagined was possible.

Tyler gave the example of working with the CMO, who may be focused on providing better customer experiences through ecommerce, data platforms, content management and utilising AI to personalise and optimise customer journeys. Further inquisition, however, found that the ability do so was constrained by a lack of market standards on customer data platforms, a lack of technical know-how, and an uncertainty of how to assess technology suppliers—all of which the CIO could help with.

Tyler suggested three steps for CIOs to build their own product value proposition.

Step 1: Recognize and define each segment (editor’s note: marketers would refer to this exercise as developing personas)

Step 2: Survey each of these individuals, asking tough questions to understand their jobs, pains and gains

Step 3: Map your offerings to match, exploring differing levels of value (from the here and now, to where they want to go)

Why CIOs should act as hostage negotiators

Tyler also advocated for a radically different approach to winning hearts and minds from the boardroom down.

He said IT leaders need to look at building relationships similar to hostage negotiators by understanding whom they work with, building trust and credibility, assessing the level of risk to drive business value, and working together to come to a shared understanding.

This is particularly key, he says, for a CIO who only has accountability for IT, and thus needs to partner internally to drive change.

“You have to learn to negotiate your role to deliver these incredible transformational things that your leaders are trying to do,” said Tyler, adding that key business projects in finance, HR and supply chain are not under the ownership of the CIO.

Citing Lewicki and Hiam’s negotiation matrix, Tyler said there are five strategies to collaborate along the ‘importance of relationship’ and ‘importance of outcome’ twin axes. Four are suboptimal with most offering no value or resulting in the individual accommodating another for the sake of maintaining the relationship. Compromise doesn’t work either, he says, because neither party gets what they’re looking for.

“The only real strategy is collaboration,” he says. “Build something more powerful, more valuable so together, you both win. But you need techniques. Hostage negotiators have this brilliant set of tactics. They talk about building bridges, bringing two parties together, connecting them to accomplish something that is best for both parties.”

Tyler believes this starts with building empathy, trust and changing minds to new ways of thinking.

“[Hostage negotiator] Chris Voss says that negotiation is not an act of battle,” says Tyler. “You have to look at it as a process of discovery, to spend the majority of your negotiation time learning, exploring, finding out what’s going on. The information you get gives you power.”

To do this, according to Tyler, CIOs must understand the value system of the individual or team they’re working ­with to identify their jobs, challenges and opportunities, as well as where the shared value between them lies. Listening is essential, too, but just as critical is being respectful (which is not the same as agreeing), likeable and credible—being true to your word can make or break the relationship.

Reciprocity can also build bridges, with Tyler revealing not only that criminals are more likely to share information if they’ve been treated well, but research shows the most successful hostage negotiations have been those where the negotiator has built an emotional connection with the hostage taker.

This is called empathy mapping, another tactic used in product development, and Tyler said it can ultimately result in the two parties coming together on a shared vision, objective, and set of commitments, as well as shared risk for both parties.

But it’s not as straightforward as it sounds, as Tyler gave a personal example of when he got it wrong earlier in his career. Asked by a marketing director to roll-out a global CRM system in 90 days across 1,700 associates and 150 countries, he flatly refused and called his colleague crazy. “He didn’t appreciate my position because he was in a quarter and had to get this done,” Tyler said. “What I should have done is think empathy, start to learn, explore and understand his feelings and his vision.

CIO, Digital Transformation, IT Leadership, Relationship Building, Roles

Orla Daly joined Skillsoft, a maker of learning software, as CIO in March 2022 with a mandate to drive both operational efficiency and transformation from Day 1.

To succeed on those objectives, Daly drew up a longer list of supporting tasks she needed to quickly accomplish. Her list: Understand in detail the business dealings of her new employer and its strategy. Inventory its current technology landscape. Assess the talent on her team. And then use all that information-gathering to identify what needs to change and how to change it.

“It’s really about learning where we were at, so I could formulate a plan forward,” says Daly, who has already launched new training programs to close skill gaps, particularly around the data literacy needed to support digital transformation. She has also prioritized IT projects based on their expected impact on business priorities. Both are actions that Daly believes help her build credibility and a true partnership with her executive colleagues.

“It’s all setting up IT for success in the longer term,” Daly adds.

Like most executives, the honeymoon phase for new CIOs is pretty short. Consequently, incoming CIOs like Daly have less time to make a positive impression, build alliances, and craft plans for success.

How best to do that can vary, but here, several seasoned IT leaders share essential to-dos that new CIOs should accomplish in their first year to set the stage for future success.

1. Make time to listen

CIOs have heard for years now that they need solid communication skills to succeed, but Helen Norris, CIO of Chapman University in California, believes as CIO she must listen as much as — if not more than — she talks. That’s why she embarked on a listening tour when she started her role.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to just jump in and say [what needs to be done],” Norris says. “You have to listen to what people across the organization are saying, hear their priorities. People really welcome it, the chance to be listened to. And you have to give people the opportunity to be really frank with you, and you have to steel yourself to hear complaints, and then build a strategic plan out of what you learn.”

2. Build relationships

When Norris started at Chapman, the IT department “was very much in the background, in that it was a utility,” she says. The university’s leaders recognized that IT wasn’t adequately supporting the school’s core mission, and they gave her a mandate to better engage the academic departments.

To do that, Norris had to reach out to department heads who had considered IT only an afterthought and establish a rapport. That kind of relationship-building is critical for any CIO who wants to be seen as an executive and equal partner in the C-suite, Norris says.

“All executive roles are about people and relationships, and it’s particularly important for a CIO to think in that way because we come from technical backgrounds and some people still think it’s a technical role,” she explains.

She adds: “We’re not doing technology for technology’s sake, or we shouldn’t be. We’re doing technology to improve the student experience, or if you work in a corporation, to increase the customer experience or the staff member experience, and that’s why it’s really about the people.”

3. Build trust

Dr. George F. Claffey Jr., CIO and interim vice president of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Partnerships at Central Connecticut State University, says he, too, focuses on listening and building relationships. He sees building trust as an essential extension of that work.

“No one is going to have confidence in your agenda if you can’t be trusted,” he says.

To build trust, Claffey acknowledges others’ challenges and works to fix them. “We find the win for them,” he says, adding that he also attends meetings held by other departments and demonstrates a genuine interest in their goals so they see “I’m interested in not just IT but everything that’s happening.”

4. Rethink (and rebrand) the IT portfolio priorities

Skillsoft’s Daly says focusing on the most impactful issues and the tech initiatives supporting the most critical business needs can quickly build credibility and demonstrate the value of IT.

That focus, however, doesn’t happen by chance, and new CIOs shouldn’t assume their inherited work portfolios have the right projects prioritized. Daly didn’t and instead reviewed the IT landscape to ensure her team is focusing on the most critical issues first.

Daniel Sanchez Reina, who as a vice president at research firm Gartner works on CIO leadership, culture, and people topics, says CIOs should see this process as an opportunity to highlight the value those projects have to the business. He advises new CIOs to position and even rename projects by their value proposition to help show they’re focused on using technology to create business results.

5. Mind the skills gap

To have a successful CIO shop from the start, Jim Hall, CEO of consultancy Hallmentum, says CIOs “need to have the right people doing the right things at the right time, and they have to have the right skills.”

To ensure they have that, CIOs should assess their teams early on to identify skill gaps in individuals and across teams, and then determine what measures are needed to get in place the right people and skills doing the right thing at the right time.

6. Craft your strategy to deliver business results

Veteran IT leaders say new CIOs can’t take too long in this get-to-know-everything stage. They must quickly take that information and use it to draft a strategy that delivers on the objectives they were hired to achieve.

“After that first 100 days, create a central theme of what you’re going to do,” Claffey says. “It’s then time to start talking about what your plan is.”

After meeting with business unit leaders, holding roundtable conversations with staffers to get a sense of their capabilities, and reviewing the IT landscape, including its project portfolio, Skillsoft’s Daly says she drafted her plan to move forward and rapidly started implementing pieces of it. So far that includes training and development around data, seeing that is a necessary component for digital transformation, as well as an initiative she named North Star, aimed at delivering capabilities for key business processes.

7. Establish your expectations for managers

CIOs often inherit a management team when joining a new company, and they thus inherit their decision-making and accountability structure.

As the new department chief, “You’ll have to figure out what decisions [managers] can make on their own, what they need to run by you, and how you’ll measure them,” says Michael Spires, principal and technology transformation practice lead with The Hackett Group, a business advisory and consulting firm.

Spires says this is a particularly important year-one step for CIOs who were promoted from within, as they have to adjust to being the boss of those who were once co-workers. He adds: “Recognize that the relationship has changed, and so be explicit about your expectations for your former peers.”

8. Name a deputy

A CIO who is successful at being a strategic partner can’t also be running interference on everyday IT operational needs, Sanchez Reina says, “because if the CIO tries to solve all the day-to-day obstacles, then they won’t be able to dedicate time to strategic activities.”

To head off that potential scenario, Sanchez Reina advises new IT chiefs to nominate a deputy to take on that tactical work. CIOs at large organizations can create and staff a specific deputy position, while CIOs at smaller companies will likely have to add such responsibilities to an existing role.

“It might not be a formal role,” Sanchez Reina adds, “but the CIO always has to have that right-hand person.”

The nominated individual should be pragmatic and decisive, he says; they can’t take a month to make a decision. They should be customer-focused rather than heads-down technical workers. And they should be generous with their time, noting “It has to be a person who never says, ‘It’s not my job.’”

9. Determine the CIO’s true place in the hierarchy

Yes, the CIO is supposed to be a C-level position but it sometimes isn’t viewed as such by other executives. Even if it is, the CIO could find that his or her authority is curtailed or undermined by others on the executive team, consultant Hall says.

“The CIO should have full authority over IT, but that might not be true in some organizations. That reality could be quite different. You might be reporting to someone who used to be in that CIO role and they’re going to take ownership over it no matter what you do. Or for historical reasons you might find someone asserting authority. And even if it the CIO has full authority, others may have influence over IT,” Hall explains. “So understand your full scope of authority.”

New CIOs should suss out whether other executives could be usurping the CIO’s power and — at least for the short term — find a pathway around that situation so they can still deliver successes despite any obstacles or obstructions others put up, Hall says.

“The ultimate goal is for the CIO to bring that authority all within the CIO role,” he says, “but in the shorter term the CIO may need to be working collaboratively with those [other leaders].”

10. Identify influencers within the C-suite

New CIOs would do well to identify those executives who have the most influence on the CEO — “influential meaning the CEO listens to these people,” Sanchez Reina says.

Identifying those individuals and understanding their visions for the organization can provide insights into what the CEO thinks and values, he says — insights that can help CIOs shape their own roadmap, strategic thinking, and priority projects. CIOs can also highlight that alignment to gain buy-in from — and even get champions among — those executives.

11. Get an ally on the board

Similarly, Rick Pastore, senior director and technology research advisor at The Hackett Group, recommends that new CIOs seek out an ally among the directors by identifying and engaging a tech-focused board member. That relationship can help the CIO better understand and, thus, align to the board’s view on the organization’s strategy and its future.

12. Figure out and fix your problem spots

“Figure out where your operational challenges are, whether it’s project delivery or outages or something else. Then determine whether the person in charge of that has a rational reason for that, do they have a plan to fix it, or are they waiting for someone to tell them what to do,” Spires says, adding that “you can’t leave a problem like that festering because it reduces your credibility.”

CIO, IT Leadership

The global supply chain isn’t just bending, it’s on the verge of breaking.

Pent-up demand from the lifting of lockdowns, geopolitical instability, war, problems in China, inflation and energy costs are all factors in creating an unprecedented level of supply chain instability – which pose an existential threat to companies the world over.

Known as ‘black swan events’, such major disruptions to supply chains were once relatively rare but are now the norm.

Companies have responded – understandably – by shifting to crisis mode. Taking action such as trying to diversify their supply chains as best they can. But this has created new problems.

Crisis response

For decades, companies around the world have been able to rely on a certain level of predictability in their supply chains. Globalization was the watchword, China played a pivotal role in manufacturing affordable goods and prices were stable. Those days are gone.

The new world requires a multi-faceted approach to supply chain planning with road, sea and air. Regional supply chains as well as global ones have to be employed, backup providers need to be on call, routes and suppliers have to be switched at the drop of a hat to keep things moving. The supply chain is now a sprawling network, where each department has to make constant quick-fire decisions, often unaware of what other parts of the network are doing.

The need for oversight

What’s missing is a view of the whole picture. Immutable data that can inform strategic decision making and allow users to see what works best, and what doesn’t.

This new level of oversight could take many forms. It could be overseen by a new department head, or simply someone with regular access to the right information. But data is vital if any new approach is to be successful.

To this end, companies will increasingly turn to solutions to create a dynamic supply chain such as Teradata’s Transportation and Logistics Data Model (TLDM).  It gathers and analyzes data in real time, allowing companies to monitor things such as ambient data, like weather and road conditions – which provide insights into possible deviations from the expected delivery lead time. GPS data captured via sensors located on a carrier, along with driver break schedules and speed changes en route, provide insights into delays.

Predictive analytics help to anticipate consumption patterns, while a combination of predictive demand modeling and real time assessment provides clear visibility into the supply chain – enabling actions to be taken such as rerouting, reprioritization of production/shipping schedules and changes in inventory levels.

Having this level of insight provides a two-pronged advantage. Real-time data allows for quick decisions to be made to keep things flowing, while analytics allows for more strategic planning and for more problems to be avoided before they even happen.

Supply chain of the future

It’s clear that with uncertainty and instability at its core, the modern supply chain will rely on immutable, actionable data that provides oversight of all aspects of supply chain operations. This ought to help bring an end to siloed working and allow for a responsive and agile way of working fit for the future.

For more information on Teradata’s dynamic supply chain solutions click here.

Supply Chain

Board directors like Jean Holley can be a CIO’s best friend or worst nightmare. A former CIO herself, Holley always reaches out to the CIO before board meetings to offer her advice on how to handle inevitable questions. “It’s amazing how many times they don’t take me up on it,” Holley says.

These CIOs, especially those new to the role, often come off as overly techie, out of touch with the business, or worse, out of their depth in the position, she says. On three different boards, directors have asked Holley if the company chose the right CIO, and three times her answer was no. Don’t be that CIO.

CIOs hold more influence than ever in the boardroom. The CEO and board may steer the ship, but they’re relying on the CIO’s radar to see what’s coming. Preparation is key and can make or break the relationship. Get ready for these questions and curveballs.

First, know your audience

Before meeting the board for the first time, it’s important to research the background of each board member and the other boards they’re on, says Gary Cantrell, former CIO and senior vice president of IT at manufacturing company Jabil, who spoke with his board quarterly.

“Most of the board members aren’t deeply versed in IT, but they know what’s important from reading the news or from what they’ve learned from other boards that they sit on,” Cantrell says. “If you follow those companies on your feed and read up on an incident before you get in front of the board, you can answer questions easy enough. If not, you have to dance as you go.”

1. ‘Are we vulnerable to current cyber threats?’

Cybersecurity remains a top board concern, especially given the war in Ukraine and ongoing global unrest. CIOs should always prepare for this loaded question without giving doomsday predictions or appearing overconfident.

“Prepared for cyber questions in the context of risk,” says Jay Ferro, chief information and technology officer at Clario. “Explain that the likelihood of a risk X happening is very low, but the impact could be high, so here’s what we’re doing to mitigate it,” Ferro says. “Have a conversation about where you aren’t as secure, too, but follow immediately with how you’re getting better, what your plan is, and how they can hold you accountable for getting better.”

Here, CIOs can help the board see improvement by reusing and updating performance graphs and charts that were presented at previous board meetings, so directors can see progress, he adds.

Vulnerability isn’t the only cyber-related question CIOs should be prepared to address. Ferro says he was put on the spot many times with the question, “Are we spending enough on cybersecurity?”

“You always want to spend more, but your CEO is in the room, and you have to be very careful about your answer,” Ferro says. “You don’t want to throw your CEO under the bus.”

On the flip side, the current economic climate has some boards asking, “Can you do this more cheaply?” says Alexander Lowry, host of the podcast “Boardroom Bound.” Typically the answer is no if the company wants to remain well-defended or needs to retain talent, he says. “Time, cost, and quality form the triangle of balance,” he adds, and CIOs must explain the importance of all three factors.

Directors who sit on several boards may also inquire about the security chain of command in the organization, Holley says. Because of this, CIOs are often asked, “Should the CISO report to the CIO or to someone else?”

“About 90% of CIOs will say yes, I want it,” Holley says. “But if you’re a technology-based company and you develop technology for a living or maybe in the security space, it should not be under the CIO. The board prefers the checks and balances of two different leaders in this case, she says.

2. ‘Are we investing in the right technology that aligns with our strategy?’

The board wants assurances that the CIO has command of tech investments tied to corporate strategy. “Demystify that connection,” Ferro says. “Show how those investments tie to the bigger picture and show immediate return as much as you can.”

Global CIO and CDO Anupam Khare tries to educate the board of manufacturer Oshkosh Corp. in his presentations. “My slide deck is largely in the context of the business so you can see the benefit first and the technology later. That creates curiosity about how this technology creates value,” Khare says. “When we say, ‘This project or technology has created this operating income impact on the business,’ that’s the hook. Then I explain the driver for that impact, and that leads to a better understanding of how the technology works.”

Board members may also come in with technology suggestions of their own that they hear about from competitors or from other boards they’re on. So CIOs should also be prepared to answer the question, “Should we be using the same technology as company X?”

Avoid the urge to break out technical jargon to explain the merits of new cloud platforms, customer-facing apps, or Slack as a communication tool, and “answer that question from a business context, not from a technology context,” Holley says. “[The answer] depends on how the business is doing and where you are competitively. Are you trying to be a leader or a fast follower” in the digital space?

It’s also wise to prepare a list of three areas that you would invest in if capital were available, Holley says. “That’s a key question to always have a good answer to in case the business is throwing off more cash or somebody isn’t spending as much capital,” she says. “For instance, if we throw $5 million now at this active project, we could pull in this ROI in six months. It may not be IT-related either. If we’re looking to pull in that acquisition in Q1 of next year, why don’t we pull it in Q4 this year because people have the bandwidth.”

Holley had a similar short list of projects to slow or stop if the business was contracting or the company had a rough quarter and needed to pull back. Top contenders were projects where the business is not engaging enough, or those the business can’t bring the right head count to make it move faster, she says.

3. ‘How are you retaining and attracting tech talent?’

Board members read about a worldwide IT talent shortage and they’re asking CIOs what they’re doing to develop talent in-house, and how they’re retaining workers, Cantrell says. They’re also asking about attrition rates and how you’re attracting new talent. Are you only offering higher salaries or other perks?

4. ‘Should we be looking to automation to fill hiring gaps?’

Without enough qualified workers, some board members may also ask about automation or robotics as an alternative, Lowry says. “The question might be, ‘Since we can’t get enough human beings to do these things anyway, could we do it more efficiently with automation? Not just today, but for the medium or long term would it make the organization more resilient or help us operate more cheaply?’” CIOs should prepare a list of what parts of the business could be or should be automated, Lowry says.

5. ‘How are you cultivating the most diverse, equitable, and inclusive tech team?’

With the increasing emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a key workplace objective and productivity driver, CIOs should also be prepared to describe their DEI initiatives, including how they are going about sourcing for this talent, such as partnerships with organizations that can help, Ferro says.

These types of corporate responsibility topics may also include sustainability questions, he adds. “What are you doing to run a more sustainable technology organization — whether that’s reducing your data center footprint or moving to the cloud,” he says.

6. ‘What should we be concerned about that’s not on our radar?’

The board is relying on your radar to help them shape business strategy. A crisp top-three list should start things off. “This is not an invitation to go apocalyptic or to overtalk or overexplain,” Holley says.

“I would always pre-think an answer internally and externally,” Holley says. “I start with something like, ‘Externally there’s an opportunity to grow revenue by x%.’ Or I would ask, ‘Do you know what our competitors are doing?’ And I would expand on that. Or I would start with, ‘The competitor we don’t even see today is probably doing this.’”

Instead of elaborating on each idea, she would follow up with, “Would you like to know more?” The board chair or a committee chair would usually say yes or want to follow up at a later time.

Dealing with the unexpected

If any question comes out of left field that you aren’t prepared to answer, never make up the answer, Ferro says. “Be prepared to say, ‘I would like to come back to you on that, or just say, ‘That’s a great question. Generally, it’s on our radar. Let’s do a separate call on that.’”

Preparation can pay off big time, Cantrell says. “It’s always the first impression. If you can get off on a good foot in the first three meetings, life gets a lot easier. If not, it gets to be a challenge.”

CIO, IT Leadership