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Chief influencing officer

Helen Beckett | April 12, 2013
As we head deeper into 2013, the signs that this year will be unforgiving for napping CIOs are there, lit up in glaring neon. The second week of January saw the collapse of three retail empires - HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops - a demise that many critics attribute to myopia around the business impacts of the internet.

Leading Resolutions' White believes another scenario could be that the CIO role splits into two: incumbents who opt for a job that focuses on the 'tin and wire' elements will end up on the supplier side of the fence. Those who are keen on - and more capable at - the business end of things will have to start sharpening their influencing skills and building stronger alliances across the boardroom, specifically with the chief marketing officer (CMO).

The CMO will become an increasingly important partner for the CIO as social media becomes the de facto tool for retaining and communicating with customers. Social media as part of the IT infrastructure is a trend that will make the performance of the CIO more transparent across the entire organisation, warns White. "It will also make the performance visible to and judged by the customer directly," he says.

To break free from the IT 'glass house' and maintain a seat and influence at the top table, the CIO will have to contribute on a much wider scale within and outside of their business. "They will have to master new non-IT skills and operate not just outside of the 'glass box' but way beyond it," says White.

That time may not be so far away but many CIOs have yet to decide where their future lies, warns White.

"When I posed the question to delegates, 'What side of the line are you sitting now, innovation or tin and wire?' there was just an uncomfortable silence."

We met three CIOs who have already moved to the innovation side of the line, and asked them how they operate in their day-to-day roles.

Chief innovation officer in CIO's clothing

Two years ago The Aintree University Hospital (AUH) NHS Foundation Trust took the paper out of clinicians' work, improving patient care and enabling the hospital to sell services to the wider community in the process. Ward Priestman, director of informatics, proposed and implemented the strategy.

"The CEO was driving through change; he'd been in the role for six years and he wanted us to be able to offer more freedom and choice to patients," explains Priestman. Specifically, the trust was looking to grow the business outside the hospital and to explore services such as selling community and diagnostic services.

"In order to expand services we had to be able to access information and to have a nimbleness that others don't possess," says Priestman. AUH's status as a foundation trust enabled Priestman to be more commercially minded, and to successfully sell the benefits of a radical, forms-recognition approach to the mammoth digital scanning project.

For this public sector player, innovation and not austerity with its focus on cost savings, was the chief driver. "The project coincided with the austerity era but was not the driver for it," explains Priestman. "Once implemented, however, cost savings flowed out of it," he says.


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