The CIO advisor: empowering the C-Suite to become innovators of change

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Business advisory is commonplace and has been for decades, with CEOs and board executives having non-executive directors giving advice, validating their business strategy, bringing expertise and experience from other verticals and providing context to their roles. Similarly, for finance directors, a supporting or advisory role is common practice in the guise of auditors. Finance departments not only employ auditors to check that they’re doing their job correctly, but also make suggestions and advise on ways of improving their functions, together with providing guidance on legislation.

So, why is it not routine for CIOs to seek the same help and support?

In today’s IT industry, CIOs are put under incredible pressure with the expectation of enabling digital transformation and innovation initiatives, managing legacy IT complexity, data migration challenges, and unplanned outages – all while keeping costs under control or worse cost cutting. In dealing with this, CIOs would increasingly benefit from the support of CIO advisors, in the same way that business leaders do as mentioned above.

However, unlike other board members, the role of a CIO advisor is commonly misconceived as a weakness or failure on the CIO’s part. For small and large companies alike, using an external consultant that is not burdened with many of the challenges they face day-to-day can bring insight and fresh initiatives to an organisation. Whether driven from within the IT department or the business at large, consulting with a third party may be the next crucial step for an organisation.

It’s time for CIOs to recognise that using the support of an advisor is only a sign of strength, and if used regularly and to best effect, can be a real enabler to the business.

From assessment to migration

The greatest issue facing organisations with an established investment in their existing IT environment is balancing conflicting requirements. Unfortunately, the CIO’s wealth of legacy technology knowledge hinders them from exploring the validity of new technology for their current business model and slows down the process of implementing new solutions.

This is where an advisor can help. As external parties, expanding on the above, they have no emotional connection or bias to the existing infrastructure, nor are they involved in company politics. Therefore, by drawing on decades of experience and knowledge, they can provide unique and creative solutions, tailored to the company’s long-term ambitions.  

In this process, CIO advisors can begin by taking a risk management approach and working collaboratively with the business and IT stakeholders, they can determine what the business really needs, before effectively pinpointing not only what needs to be changed, but how to integrate transformation with little or no disruption to the business.

After skilfully analysing the organisation’s technology portfolio and considering the business objectives, they can offer assessment, migration and transformation services, resulting in actionable insight on how to effectively execute a change programme, knowing all stakeholders and bought into the vision. Through assessment of an organisation’s technology and, equally as important, the people and business processes, the advisor can help create a transformation roadmap of initiatives that enable the CIO to unlock the strategic value of IT as a true business enabler.

How your business can benefit

Almost all businesses today are entirely dependent on technology, yet the business usually treats IT as a cost centre that, in their view, is spending too much. The CIO advisor can work with the CIO to reduce and eventually eradicate this ‘mistrust of IT’ within the business, through effective stakeholder engagement and true collaboration. IT can then be promoted onto the business stage where it belongs in today’s world through the enablement of automated and efficient business processes, to reduce ‘time to market’ and/or other business efficiencies. As a result, a company could save crucial time, money, and pressure that can make the difference between a well-performing company and a market leader.

Small and large businesses alike

There are many organisations now using the services of an external CIO advisor to great effect, having engaged for a variety of reasons. This role has the biggest business impact on organisations where the advisor: helps a small IT team with no CIO, helps tackle mistrust of IT within the business, mentors immature IT function, challenges the board to innovate, or helps an IT team that is overwhelmed with operational issues.

From smaller businesses without senior leadership, to large organisations, the advisor can illustrate the advantages within the business’ IT department and empower its leaders. For small organisations, using the advisor as a part-time resource or interim CIO is often a more cost-effective solution than employing a full-time CIO. It enables the head of IT to develop his or her own role into that of a true business-focused CIO.

An external CIO advisor can also be crucial while organisations are between full-time CIOs. In this role, the advisor can help identify potential internal candidates while developing and implementing ongoing personal mentoring programs to help the successful candidate transition into the new role.

Bring IT and business closer

Effective advisors are capable of both empowering and challenging the C-Suite. Their experience and expertise can bring a level of understanding to the business, which can quickly identify the requirements of the business for successful strategy execution. CIO advisors are there to offer legislative guidance and do a lot of the reading that the encumbered CIO simply does not have time to do. They add some colour and context to what the CIO does, providing contextual information in the first instance to becoming a real and positive asset to most businesses.  

Mike Lewis, Consulting & Advisory Director, Europe, Ensono
Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay