Thursday, March 12, 2015

ConNEXTions 2015: Defining Today’s CIO

By Jeanine Sterling
Industry Principal
Frost & Sullivan

If there was ever a leadership position that needed upgrading and updating in today’s fast-changing business environment, it is that of the CIO.  This year’s Frost & Sullivan ConNEXTions event, held in early February in San Francisco, focused on defining the key traits of a successful 21st Century IT executive.

Throughout two days of presentations, panels, roundtable discussions, and interactive Q&A, the following themes emerged:

CIO Leaders Establish Proactive, Positive Relationships with Their LOBs

Each line of business is a customer looking for support.  Creating a positive relationship with LOBs should be at the top of every CIO’s to-do list.  Recommendations that emerged around this topic during discussions included:

  • Create a new “business relationship management” role in the IT department, and have one of these managers for each of the company’s LOBs. They then become the interface and expert into each line of business.
  • Become a partner and problem-solver, getting to really know and understand each LOB’s business processes.
  • In fact, identify the individuals within each LOB who have an analytical bent and can clearly describe and define their business’s work processes.  These are valuable resources.
  • Understand that IT is more effective working with – not dictating to – its internal clients.  Ongoing communications and flexibility help greatly in this regard.
  • Recruit a marketing-oriented individual onto staff and have them explain and promote IT’s achievements to the rest of the company.

CIO Leaders Are Always Developing Next-Generation IT Personnel


With the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age, it is imperative that CIOs be actively searching for successors.  A number of presentations and discussions focused on how to recruit and, very importantly, retain a new IT employee:
  • Realize that technical skills are table stakes.  Just as important are the abilities to set goals, collaborate, be creative, and work with people.
  • Consider internships, college fairs and hackathons as fertile recruiting territories.
  • Once hired, head poachers off at the pass by providing employees with real challenges, regular training, honest feedback, and the opportunity to take on new responsibilities.  Don’t let them stagnate.

CIO Leaders Are Digital Disruptors

Scott Caudill, VP of Solution Delivery and Business Transformation for Zimmer Holdings, Inc., presented a keynote presentation on how to embrace new business models and opportunities.  His IT organization helped transform a 90 year old manufacturing enterprise into a modern powerhouse by hewing to the following framework:

  • Co-source what makes sense.  The IT department must recognize what it’s good at and what it’s not.  Commodity activities can be handled by an external partner.
  • Revitalize the infrastructure.  23-year-old ERP systems and applications aren’t going to get the job done these days.
  • Hire world class talent.
  • Manage IT like a business.  Align ongoing IT costs with business benefits to establish a rationale for necessary spending increases.
  • Deliver quick wins.  Re-branding the company website, mobilizing the field sales force, and/or instituting clearer KPI tracking and analysis are good examples of quick, high-value achievements.
CIO Leaders Make Their Organization Indispensable to the Company

How does the CIO and IT organization remain relevant as SaaS (software as a service) vendors continue to proliferate?
  • Make the CIO position a Board position.
  • Be viewed by other executives as a trusted advisor.
  • Think like a CEO – make KPIs a priority and be forward-looking regarding LOB needs.
  • Do not be viewed as a cost center.  Be viewed as providing value-add.

ConNEXTions 2015 gave each of its attendees the opportunity to explore these leadership themes with each other, making the two-day getaway a valuable opportunity to network, share and learn.

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