Practicing Relevance: The CIO as Business Partner


In the past, a CIO was expected to be a technical expert who reactively provided services to business customers. In today’s world, CIOs are required to deliver business value by leveraging technology as an enabler.

Here are the ISG Top 5 suggestions for helping CIOs shift their role from order-taker to business partner.

1. Tie IT to business outcomes. IT organizations should base their contributions on key business drivers representative of both the contributions of IT and the value of IT. Regardless of industry, understanding the fundamental drivers of IT cost and translating them in a meaningful way to the business is essential to aligning IT to the business.

2. Create practical ways to reduce costs and efficiently run operations. Working to free investments to proactively support and strategically partner with the business may require a deeper review of how IT functions, both operationally and organizationally. Be willing to consider fundamental changes to the IT target operating model. Ultimately, the focus should be on effectively running the business, changing the business and growing the business.

3. Understand the constraints and challenges to change that exist within the enterprise. Changing the focus of an organization can impact productivity in the short term. Awareness of this is essential to set expectations and define actionable and achievable priorities in the context of business objectives. CIOs need to demonstrate the ability to develop realistic plans for change. Different business stakeholders will have different “must-haves,” so the CIO must articulate the tradeoffs and implications involved in alternative scenarios.

4. Ask questions that help define the timeline, sequencing and prioritization of activities:

  • What is our business alignment model?
  • How do we effectively integrate services across providers?
  • How do we incorporate technology solutions such as cloud and X-as-a-Service models?
  • How ready is the organization to make this change, and how do I build momentum around change?

5. Embrace the fact that “it takes a village.” Through collaboration, CIOs can give business stakeholders a sense of ownership and move the relationship from client/customer to one of partnership and relevance. Collaboration is the only way to fully explore the risks and benefits of different options for achieving cost reduction, improved productivity and enhanced alignment with the business.

ISG helps CIOs clarify their roles and work toward relevance in the business. Contact us to discuss further.

About the author

Rajib leads ISG’s Strategy Services team and brings extensive expertise in helping clients evaluate, design and implement complex global strategies. Rajib’s experience has enabled him to provide practical and tangible results for clients across a variety of industries and address key issues that require IT transformational change. Leveraging a hands-on approach, Rajib has led and contributed to some of ISG’s largest client engagements, supporting achievement of their business objectives.