CIOs Need to Address CEO Concerns in Major Ways: Gartner

CIOs need to think about how to best address CEO concerns such as cost efficiencies and growth, says a new research note from Gartner.

ORLANDO, Fla.-For the IT pros assembled this week for the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2010, helping their companies navigate the aftermath of the recession is a top priority.

In a number of conference panels and town halls, IT administrators and CIOs have talked about the need to keep their shops running despite reduced budgets, as well as wrestling with a rapidly evolving environment. During one such town hall on Oct. 20, IT administrators from banks, research labs and small businesses all discussed how to best secure and administer the mobile devices-particularly iPads-flooding their networks.

But a major part of overcoming today's tech challenges also involves dealing with an organization's CEO. In a research note released during the conference, Gartner analysts broke down the seven primary concerns of CEOs that should be addressed by CIOs. Those included:

Fading Confidence: The ravages of the global recession have apparently left many CEOs in a pessimistic frame of mind, and inclined to reduce their more bullish investments in technology and other areas. In addressing this particular concern, CIOs should assume their IT resource levels will either decline or stay reduced in 2011.
Maintaining Internal Cash Generation: In keeping with the tough economic environment, many CEOs will be focused more than ever on how their enterprise is generating cash. "To properly align IT's contribution to the most pressing of current business concerns," Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow, wrote in an Oct. 20 statement, "CIOs should ensure that among the projects they are pursuing, the contribution to cash generation and cash flow acceleration is visible."

Investing in New Cost Efficiencies: CEOs are increasingly focused on systemic efficiencies. Therefore, CIOs should examine how to contribute to saving costs (i.e., instituting automation policies).

Applying Innovation for Growth: CEOs will want to quickly monetize products being created by their company's research divisions. CIOs can help make this happen in a variety of ways.

"CEOs need IT's help in bringing new product and service innovations to technology-enabled markets," Raskino wrote in his statement. "The majority of CIOs should add e-commerce, e-service, social marketing, smartphone or location-based innovations to bolster new product and service launches."

Engaging the Politicized Economy: CIOs can help a CEO deal with an increasingly complex political environment by ensuring that people and tools are in place for research inquiries and data analysis.

Long-Term Sustainability: Green is the new black, as they say. CIOs can contribute to a corporate effort to operate a workplace in a more sustainable way.

Legacy and Succession: CIOs should nurture those fast-rising executives positioned to become the next CEO. "Teach, mentor, advise, persuade, support, nurture, and generally cultivate the next business leader you hope to be working for," wrote Raskino. That can translate into a closer future relationship between a corporation's executive and technological arms.

At least one CEO's comments seemed to support Gartner's findings.

During his Oct. 20 keynote talk at the conference, Cisco CEO John Chambers suggested to the gathered IT pros and executives that CIOs will have to start talking the CEO's language-dollars and cents, productivity and revenue-if they want to institute new technology policies for their business.

"You talk to [a CEO] about clouds and network and video," he made a snoring sound, to general laughter from the audience. "It's about revenue per employee."

Chambers insisted that, for CEOs, the first strategic question is always, "How can I use my assets more productively?" The second is, "What are my new revenue streams?" Because technology can contribute to both of those goals, "I think we're going to see an inflection point where CEOs start to talk about ... evolving technology as a constant theme."

CIOs will start to more closely resemble traditional executives, he said. "CIOs of the future will understand that business is their primary role and how to enable it with technology [is] a secondary role," he said. "We're now developing business leaders whether they're in IT, sales, engineering ... and I will move them around by function. I think this is more the wave of the future."