CEOs: Five Reasons Your Startup Needs A CIO

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By Alvina Antar, CIO at Zuora

The most recent technology IPOs include MuleSoft, Alteryx, Coupa, BlackLine, Talend, and Twilio. Add to that list recent filings by Okta, Yext and Cloudera and the market’s appetite for enterprise technology IPOs continues to grow in 2017. Now a new batch of more than 300 are in the running for an initial public offering. For all of the digital enterprises preparing for IPOs this year, staffing the right executive team is critical. Although these companies know technology is at the core of every business process and is the primary driver of competitive advantage, CIOs are often not hired in the early stages of the company. In fact, very few pause to think of a CIO until there’s a dire need. While there’s no doubt that CTOs and CFOs are critical, CIOs have an equally important role to play.

CEOs, here are 5 reasons your startup needs a CIO today:

1) Start Right: CIOs are typically brought in when a company’s considering going public or planning an exit. By this time, the company has thrown heads at business problems and have a slew of internal business systems that are not properly integrated and definitely not built for scale. The unfortunate truth is that the CIO is scrambling to clean up the mess of unguided investments. These often include multi-year agreements of the wrong technology, short-sighted choices, and siloed business decisions. The first-time company CIO will be too busy cleaning house and documenting manual business processes for compliance and governance purposes as opposed to focusing on enabling business growth strategies.

It’s pertinent that you make the right technology investments early on to prevent chaos and be able to focus on growth.

2) Stay Current: As technology evolves, our lives seem to get simpler and more complicated, at the same time. To stay competitive, you need a CIO who challenges the status quo and drives agility with disruptive technologies to differentiate your business.

Technology implementation isn’t static. It’s constantly evolving and requires continual investment. Companies often make the mistake of relying solely on external consultants to make IT decisions and suffer from a lack of transparency and accountability. Relying on sporadic attention by external consultants for critical business functions will not suffice. What you need is in-house expertise to ensure that your processes and technology enable you to achieve your goals. A CIO will focus on speed and agility, guarantee investments are maximized to their full potential and keep pace with technology advancements.

Without a CIO, your company lacks an internal systems and technology vision enabling your business’ growth initiatives.

3) Big Picture: A CIO is the only person positioned to create an end-to-end functional and technical blueprint for the entire company. Their oversight of the overall business helps ensure that all investments are aligned with the business’ priorities and strategy. CIOs spend company money as their own and are accountable for every dime! They stop the buying madness and over-spending on technologies and duplication of investments with a laser focus on operational efficiency.

CIOs are uniquely positioned to have visibility into how individual business decisions impact the rest of the organization. IT departments are also strongly focused on business operational alignment spanning the entire customer journey. This allows them to have a holistic picture of your business allowing business units to focus on their core functions. It also helps streamline business processes, remove data silos and empower you with business intelligence to make data-driven decisions.

It’s critical that your business works as a single unit to deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience.

4) Security Aware: Securing your customers’ data is required to earn their trust and ultimately their business. Equally important is protecting your IP and business data, information assets and technologies against threats. Prioritize both the business and security of information, infrastructure and sensitive data, instead of waiting for a data breach or security incident. Preventive security is critical and required for your company’s sanity and reputation. Build standard governance and compliance principles early on into your IT operations to feel confident and avoid post-incident cleanup efforts.

Security awareness and risk management should not be an afterthought but rather incorporated in every business decision your company makes.

5) Using your own Product: If there’s a business case for you to use your own product, you absolutely need to do it – and do it right! By investing in a CIO early on, you will have established an internal champion of your product. They will implement your product and go on to become your best reference account.

Prospects and customers will want to know if you use your product and how. Demonstrating a commitment to your product and its excellence by implementing it within the company goes a long way in creating trust and transparency which ultimately leads to increased sales and happy customers. It also serves as a testbed for product teams and provide invaluable feedback to your product roadmap.

Your CIO will bet on your own product, become your internal champion and best reference account, and ultimately have a direct impact on revenue.

Don’t wait until you decide you’re close to an IPO event to finally invest in this critical role! Just take a look at the surge of tech IPOs out there who are scrambling to hire a CIO today. Make sure you’re not stuck with poor technology decisions and are positioned for business growth and scale.

The new digital enterprise requires technology leadership to shape and transform your business. Startups need CIOs who are capable of driving results within small teams in an ever-changing environment. If technology and innovation is vital to your company, you need to get out there and find a CIO. Now.

Learn more on how CIOs are changing the game – download Zuora’s CIO Survey now!

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