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CIOs must learn to 'dance' with other C-suite executives

Tom Kaneshige | Aug. 20, 2014
Technology is changing the way every department, from marketing to human resources to finance, is achieving its goals. For that reason, now more than ever, CIOs need to become skilled collaborators.

toyota panel
Toyota Financial Services executives address CIO 100 Symposium attendees. Credit: Tom Kaneshige

"Collaboration requires trust, credibility, shared goals and mutual respect. What do you as an IT leader and collaborator need to do to be invited to the party and be asked to dance?"

That was the question a panel of C-suite executives from tech, marketing and operations at Toyota Financial Services posed yesterday to attendees at CIO 100 Symposium in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif:

CIOs huddled in groups to come up with three-minute answers, with the best ones presented to the panel. Afterward, the panel deliberated and picked a winner.

It's an important question given the recent power struggle among top executives for the tech budget. Technology is changing the way every department, from marketing to human resources to finance, is achieving its goals. In actual dollars, the CMO's tech budget is growing while the CIO's budget remains largely flat.

Unfortunately for CIOs, many business leaders don't think much of IT. According to a Forrester survey, half of marketing pros do not firmly believe IT accelerates their department's success. This number jumps to three out of four sales executives and four out of five customer service leaders. There's no question CIOs have their work cut out for them to win over other C-suite executives.

Here's the winning answer:

"We came up with 7 habits of the highly effective CIO. No. 1: Understand the industry, the business and technology. No. 2: Be part of the solution, because if you're not, you know you're part of the problem. No. 3: Take risks, innovate and have a sense of urgency. No. 4: Dance on your toes, not on your heels. No. 5: See the same picture the business sees, just from a slightly different angle -- and that needs to be the business outcome. No. 6: Don't be afraid to lead. No. 7: Occasionally, don't be afraid to crash the party."

The group with the winning answer also commandeered the slide projector to show a hand-drawn pyramid model -- after all, they're still techies at heart -- illustrating these seven habits (see below).

The panel highlighted the answer's theme of transparency as one of the winning characteristics. Toyota Financial Services CIO Ron Guerrier also applauded the marketing nature of the presentation, including the visual.

"When you're kinda selling this idea to the business, it has to be something that they'll actually buy into; it has to have somewhat of a marketing feel to it," Guerrier says. "It also talked about behavior for the leadership on the IT side. That's very important. A lot of us have to shed the old ways, think differently, challenge the status quo and never be complacent."

 

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