Manage your CEO to attain business leadership

By : |July 30, 2004 0

In a new report, “Improving the CEO’s view of the CIO”, analysts at
Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) conclude that while most chief executive
officers (CEOs) view their chief information officers (CIOs) as trusted
operational leaders, few CEOs regard their CIOs as business leaders — despite
most CIOs’ belief to the contrary.

This gap in perceived abilities limits the CIO’s opportunity to deliver greater
value to the enterprise. In a recent Gartner survey of more than 450 non-IT
business managers, the IT leader was ranked next to last among eight senior
executive positions according to significance in setting strategic direction for
an enterprise. Last place went to the Human Resources leader.

Yet the new Gartner report shows that most CIOs have an opportunity to change
this situation, improve the relationship with their CEO, and create more value
for the enterprise by becoming less risk-averse and extending their role outside
traditional IT activities. In short, the potential exists for the age of the
operational CIO to be eclipsed soon with the CIO ascending to a more strategic

Gartner analysts suggest three reasons for the often-strained relationship
between CEO and CIO. First, CEOs are overloaded and simply do not view IT as a
top priority. Marcus Blosch, Vice President and Research Director at Gartner
EXP, said the fundamental gap in how the role of IT is viewed by many senior
executives can inhibit business growth.

“All top business issues highlighted by CEOs are dependent on, if not
enabled by IT,” Dr. Blosch said. “Considering IT as separate from
growth issues highlights a lack of understanding of IT’s role in the enterprise.
The truth is that IT, and by default, the CIO, should underpin every one of the
top priorities that CEOs pointed out in our survey.”

CEOs and CIOs also have very different perceptions of business priorities. In
2004, CEOs are focused on revenue and growth, yet most CIOs believe that
security, cost and privacy are the top three drivers on the business agenda.
This difference in focus limits the credibility of CIOs, often impeding their
ability to contribute at board level.

Gartner acknowledges that whilst it is imperative for CIOs to deliver on key
issues such as security, they must also recognize the importance of aligning and
engaging with the CXO agenda if they are to add real value to the organization.

Finally the Gartner study points to differences in CEO and CIO business styles
and behaviors. CEOs are more optimistic, evangelizing and idea generating,
whilst CIOs are more conservative, and focused on detail, implementation and
closure. Moreover, profiles of other CXOs are closer to that of the CEO. As a
result, the CIO often is perceived within the group as something of a ‘naysayer’
with a focus on the operational and system complexities involved in enterprise
change. This can make CIO contributions seem out of step with the CEO, executive
committee or board, with the CIO often seen as lacking vision and dynamism.

According to Dave Aron, Research Director at Gartner EXP, “The challenge
for the CIO is to
move out of the IT space and their comfort zone to demonstrate deeper business
knowledge and leadership. In the words of one of the CEOs interviewed, the
‘Super-CIO’ needs to be ‘bilingual’ – able to communicate and engage with the
wider business organization as comfortably as with the IS organization.”

A shift in CIO behavior

To make the most of the relationship with the CEO, the CIO must shift from
task- to relationship-oriented behavior, from management to leadership focus,
from relying on control to learning to influence and from drawing on an IT
knowledge base to drawing on a business knowledge base. Above all, Aron said,
“CIOs need to learn to take risks and feel comfortable operating outside
their area of expertise. It is only then that they can truly take on the
challenge of aspiring to real business leadership.”

Four CEO-CIO relationships types

The most valuable CEO-CIO relationship is an evolving one. Gartner advises CIOs
to take one step at a time, building credibility while stimulating appetite for
movement to the next level. With this in mind, Gartner has identified four
CEO-CIO relationship types to help CIOs take stock of their current position and
plan accordingly.

q At-Risk:
where the CIO and IS are not delivering to the businesses needs, and CEO-CIO
engagement is around issue resolution.

q Transactional:
where the CIO has credibility as a service provider, and CEO-CIO engagement
centres on IS execution of the business strategy.

q Partnering:
where the CIO takes on some business initiatives, and is able to proactively
engage the CEO and senior business leaders on business strategy.

q Trusted-Ally:
where the CIO takes on significant business leadership roles, and co-creates
business strategy.

Gartner found that the majority of CEO-CIO relationships are at the
‘transactional’ stage where the CIO has operational credibility but
communication centres on confirming IT feasibility and checking delivery. The
survey revealed that the ‘Trusted-Ally’ relationship that many CIOs aspire to is
rare in today’s business climate, with few CIOs currently engaged in significant
non-IT business-transformation projects.

Six CIO behaviors that can transform the CEO relationship

Gartner’s latest research among CEOs and CIOs makes clear that their
relationships are not set in stone. In-depth interviews showed that a number of
CIOs are building a reputation for credibility while stimulating the need for a
more dynamic CEO-CIO partnership. Gartner analysts recommend a six-point action
plan for CIOs to follow whilst, of course, maintaining excellent service

· Get
mentoring and coaching

· Make
time for relationship building

· Take
on non-IT responsibilities

· Build
the strength of your deputies

· Educate

· Educate
your stakeholders

Gartner’s view on the future for the CIO remains positive. “The CEO’s view
of the CIO is changing as enterprises become more reliant on IT,” Aron
said. “I firmly believe that many CIOs can move toward a business
leadership role by effectively managing their relationships with CEOs and other
executive peers.” Examples include former ‘super-CIOs’ such as Michael
Capellas, now chairman and chief executive of MCI, and Bob Martin in his time at
Wal-Mart, who proved that the move from an IT role to top business leadership
can be achieved.

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