The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds
Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Western & Southern Financial Group
How do you see your role with other business leaders in your company?
As a partner and business leader with shared goals, I think about Information Technology (IT) as a business function versus just a shared service. IT’s role is evolving and needs to stay abreast of the changing needs and capabilities required to do business today. The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and IT has become a position that is instrumental in helping to drive the strategic vision of the company. We are the stewards of IT assets and investments for the company. The CIO and IT leaders need to know and understand the businesses they support, act as consultants, trusted advisors and change agents. They need to know the industry and be looking ahead for new emerging technologies and solution sets that can be a solution for cross functional enterprise needs as well as individual business needs now and in the future.
The lines between IT and business are becoming somewhat blurred. This can cause confusion regarding ownership of an activity or area of responsibility. For example, the roles and skills needed for developing digital/social media and data/analytics are many times shared between areas. Defining roles and responsibilities is becoming more important in matrix functions to assure confusion is minimized and partnership is enabled for a successful outcome.
How do you direct these relationships away from being transactional?
Start with the business strategy; identify the outcome needed and how to measure it. As head of IT, I can provide the expertise that other business leaders at Western & Southern need to do their jobs from a technology perspective. However, my team and I rely on those same business leaders for a full understanding of what their strategic needs are. By working together and understanding what those needs are, we will be in a better position to provide the right solutions. This will lead to a discussion of business capabilities required to solve the business case. Collaboration between business and IT is essential in the early stages of developing an idea or initiative to assure that the solution leverages or reuses assets, the design is holistic and of high quality, and the solution is built to be reusable, streamlined and efficient. Collaboration remains critical after an idea or initiative is implemented, to assure that as the needs evolve, so does the technology required to keep it performing properly or – in certain situations – improve with new capabilities.
How do you build trust in these relationships?
You cannot build trust unless you get to know the other person. And that is true both in your personal life as it is in business. Spend time together getting to know each other on a business and personal level. Establish priorities, have fact-based discussions and decisions. Be transparent and align/integrate and measure goals to demonstrate desire to be successful together. I am very lucky to work in a company with such a collaborative executive team – it is part of our strong culture. We are able to openly discuss needs, challenge the status quo and develop the right strategy and approach to determine the right solution. Therefore, it is very natural for us to build the kind of trust in our relationships that allow us to accomplish great things together.