How the CIO can have a successful relationship with their CEO

A good relationship between these two execs is vital for any business

Meeting

The IT department nowadays rightly sees itself as an enabler for the rest of the business. Without technology virtually all firms would cease to function.

But technology is a lot more than sticking a laptop on a desk and a printer in the corner. The CIO has to have systems in place to run all parts of the business. And the CIO mustn't underestimate the importance of nurturing a positive relationship with the CEO.

Tell me what you want

A big factor involved in the relationship with the CEO is knowing what they want. These days, the CEO expects information systems to provide the ability to draw conclusions and even deliver business insights.

IT systems today are asked to incorporate intelligence abilities that not only analyse past performance, but generate forecasts and make recommendations to managers based on this type of predictive analysis. Intelligent technology at this level forms the basis of a strong and resilient IT department, and in turn frees up time for both the CIO and IT staff to focus their efforts on exciting projects which aim to grow the business and ensure it stays ahead of the competition.

According to Andres Richter, CEO at Priority Software, today's CIOs must be focused on developing technology-empowered business strategies. "Even if the company isn't an 'early adopter', the CIO must be at the forefront of technology and must be the one who brings the company to that point. They are responsible for business outcomes no less than any other member of the board."

Leading a business is no longer about focusing on operational systems, it is about analysing and identifying market trends, generating knowledge and insights, forecasting causes and effects of business activities and finding and implementing systems that will proactively advance the company.

"For example, the CIO can initiate a dedicated system that will identify and issue a warning about dissatisfied customers that might leave in the future, or a system that monitors changes in customer behaviour," says Richter.

Support from the CEO

If the CIO is going to be there for the CEO, there has to be some kind of quid pro quo with the CIO expecting something in return. "The CIO would expect support for business vision and business line management," says Dr Rado Kotorov, chief innovation officer at Information Builders. "Therefore, the CEO has to bring the CIO's ideas to the board and ensure that his/her vision is supported."

The CEO also has to invest in some startup-like opportunities undertaken by the CIO. "In fact, I would even suggest that the CEO should act as if the CIO is the successor in training. It is very likely that, in the future, we will see more CIOs becoming CEOs," says Kotorov.