How CIOs Can Ensure a Seat at the Strategy Table

For CIOs to be effective, they must reframe their role in enterprise strategy development.

It’s hard to have a conversation at executive level these days without the “d-word” coming up. Digital disruption has placed technology at the heart of most business discussions, yet many CIOs are still fighting for a seat at the strategy table.

Monika Sinha, research director at Gartner, says information and technology are considered too late in the strategy process in many enterprises.

“IT is fundamental to the new business challenges,” Sinha told CIOs at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Goa, India this week. “It underpins new business models, products and services that are disrupting existing industries and creating new markets. As strategists, CIOs are flexible, agile and opportunistic in their approach.”

Once your ambition is clear, appropriately position IT at the heart of your business strategy.

The traditional “wait and respond” approach to enterprise strategy – the business strategy is finalized, the CIO reviews the strategy for IT’s contribution and an IT strategy is developed in response – is no longer viable.

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Sinha said CIOs need to develop a leadership profile as a strategist: a concrete plan for how they will act, think, brand themselves and respond in the enterprise. She outlined three steps CIOs can take to have greater input into the business strategy.

1. Position IT in your enterprise strategy

Digital success requires leaders to identify and align with the enterprise’s digital ambition. Is the objective to use digital technology to optimize your current business model to improve productivity, products and customer service; or do you use it to pursue new business models, products or services?

Once your ambition is clear, appropriately position IT at the heart of your business strategy. It will negate the need for a separate digital business strategy and allow the enterprise to begin thinking and acting like a digital business.

2. Reshape your personal role

CIOs must reframe their role in enterprise strategy development to be effective.

  • Think like a designer by taking a customer-centric perspective to reframe business challenges.
  • Connect the dots to bridge the gap between technology trends and business.
  • Practice entrepreneurism with a mindset that is relentless in the pursuit of outcomes and a resourceful attitude that enlists the support of the wider organization.

3. Build capabilities to ensure your strategy is effective

In Gartner’s 2018 CIO survey, 46% of respondents identified culture as the main barrier to scaling digital business. Sinha said CIOs need to address the culture challenge head on.

“Too often strategies focus on what is familiar,” she said. “Task your team with providing frequent insight, especially from customers, and feed it into strategy conversations.”

To contribute effectively to strategy, you’ll need to have the right roles in place. In particular, you’ll need a strong facilitator – someone to run the process, get the right people together and work with you on renewing your strategic planning process.

Then, deliver. Tangible business impact will keep you at the strategy table.


Gartner clients can read more in The Specific Role of the CIO in Strategy by Monika Sinha.

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