The “New CIO” Checklist

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Within today’s leading digital enterprise companies, CIOs are way more than mere ticket takers. They are business drivers, product champions, and so much more! In this guide, Zuora’s CIO Alvina Antar outlines the five key responsibilities of the new CIO. How do you measure up? (A version of this guide was originally published in Forbes.)

In digital enterprise companies, technology is at the core of every business process and is the primary driver of competitive advantage. In this environment, CIOs play a critical role. If you want to be taken seriously at your organization — and have a seat at the table making real business decisions — you better own the following 5 responsibilities:

#1: Drive Business Strategy Growth

Key question: Are you driving tech investments that enable business growth strategies?

It’s critical that companies make the right technology investments early on to prevent chaos and focus on growth. And it’s the CIOs job to make sure this happens.

Some CIOs are too busy taking tickets to drive business. And, when a company is considering going public or planning an exit, these same CIOs are too busy cleaning house and documenting manual business processes for compliance and governance purposes to focus on enabling business growth strategies.

Valued CIOs don’t get distracted by short-sighted tech choices and siloed business decisions that only solve a short-term need. Instead, they focus on consolidating, integrating, and streamlining internal business systems to create a stack that’s built for scale.

#2: Differentiate Your Business

Key question: Are you driving agility with disruptive technologies that differentiate the business?

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

Technology implementation isn’t static. It’s constantly evolving and requires continual investment. That’s why the new CIO needs to be accountable for a comprehensive internal systems and technology vision that will enable business growth initiatives.

You need to provide your expertise to ensure that the organization’s processes and technology enable the business to achieve their goals. A CIO will focus on speed and agility, guarantee investments are maximized to their full potential, keep pace with technology advancements, and provide transparency into their decisions.

#3: Align Investments with Business Priorities and Strategy

Key question: How do you ensure that your business operates as a single unit to deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience?

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.

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.

Working off of a holistic picture of the company enables business units to focus on core functions, helps streamline business processes, removes data silos, and empowers companies with business intelligence to make data-driven decisions.

Top CIOs put an end to the buying madness, over-spending on technologies, and duplicating investments. Instead, they spend company money as their own and are accountable for every dime with an emphasis on operational efficiency.

#4: Protect Your Customers and Your Company

Key question: Do you incorporate security awareness and risk management into every business decision your organization makes?

Securing customer data is required to earn their trust and, ultimately, their business. Equally important is protecting the company’s IP and business data, information assets, and technologies against threats. The goal is to 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 every company’s sanity and reputation. CIOs can help build standard governance and compliance principles into IT operations to avoid post-incident cleanup efforts.

#5: Be a Product Champion

Key question: Are you your company’s own best reference account?

If there’s a business case for your company to use its own product, you absolutely need to do it – and do it right! It’s your responsibility to establish yourself as an internal product champion, implementing the product and becoming your company’s best reference account.

Prospects and customers will want to know if companies use their product and how. This may sound obvious, but it’s shocking how many companies haven’t fully adopted their own products.

Demonstrating a commitment to the 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 provides invaluable feedback to the product roadmap.

The New CIO

Today’s CIO is no longer the technology-facing executive of the past. Instead, the new CIO is more closely aligned with broader company-wide objectives than ever. Their role has shifted from the “manufacturer” of IT systems to the “enabler” of business transformation, innovation, and customer success.

With a recent Gartner report showing that two-thirds of all business leaders claim that keeping pace with digitization is a prerequisite for success in today’s economy, it’s time for CIOs to take their seat at the table as business transformation leaders.