Deep Dive: Four Critical Issues Facing CIOs Today

by Alison Weiss

July 2014


Today’s chief information officers (CIOs) have some fantastic new opportunities to deliver transformational business impact and customer value for their organizations. But what does it take to actually deliver on that potential?

Earlier this year, Oracle’s Chief Communications Officer Bob Evans identified the 10 most important issues driving CIO innovation for 2014 in a widely circulated Forbes OracleVoice column. Recently, Evans and some of today’s most forward-thinking IT and business leaders—many of whom have been featured in Profit—took part in a new Oracle video series to dive deeper into the top issues sparking innovation among CIOs. The videos present concrete steps CIOs can take to be leaders of transformation.

Here, drawn from the videos, are key observations and suggestions focusing on four of the top strategic issues for CIOs:

1. Shatter the Legacy Model of IT Budgeting and Expectations

Evans posits that CIOs need to find ways to break from the status quo of spending 80 percent of IT budgets on infrastructure and only 20 percent on innovation. According to Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group, a research and advisory firm, companies that can maximize investment in innovation and focus on disruption will be able to truly change markets to create and capture value.

Christian Anschuetz, chief information officer at UL, a safety science services company, believes IT organizations need to put greater emphasis on building shared technological components so that value can be created more deliberately and with greater focus than in the past. Read Profit’s customer success story on UL to learn how UL streamlined its siloed enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to meet the demands of a growing international customer base while continuing to provide a high level of safety science services.

2. Design and Deliver the Transparent Enterprise

Transparency in the enterprise may be an uncomfortable idea for some CIOs who are more familiar with protecting and securing mission-critical information. But for Evans, transparency simply means creating an environment where information and insight are available to every employee when they need it. Dave Gray, author of The Connected Company, notes that employees in organizations today face complexity, uncertainty, and rapid changes. They require information, and the CIO is responsible for providing it. In the past, CIOs managed hierarchies, but today, they need to understand that they are managing networks.

Li observes openness and transparency allow people to understand an organization’s goals and why they are doing what they’re doing. As a result, employees are able to truly apply themselves and fully engage to achieve business objectives. The charge for the modern CIO is to be an enabler—to protect data but also enable access to data. As an example, one of the biggest stores of knowledge in an organization typically is around customer information. The rise of social and digital media means that it is possible to hear in real-time exactly what customers are saying. Since you can’t anticipate who exactly across the organization may need the data, the CIO needs to make it all available. Read Profit‘s interview with Li about her best-selling book, Groundswell and a Profit article about her insights regarding Enterprise 2.0 initiatives to learn more about how social technology is impacting the enterprise.

3. Tie Employee Compensation to Knowledge-Worker Productivity

Across the enterprise, everyone has the opportunity to be a knowledge worker because analytics are being generated from the CEO office down to the shop floor, and from the distribution dock to the customer service department. For Evans, this means that CIOs, in turn, can have a huge impact on their companies by creating the systems, applications, processes, and metrics to help boost the capabilities, productivity, sophistication, and impact of knowledge workers.

Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer at Bunchball, a gamification company, suggests that data and analytics can directly motive employees to be more productive and perform better by linking compensation to measurable productivity improvements extrapolated from analytics. While companies will need to carefully consider the systems required to enable the necessary data gathering and data sharing, Paharia believes the systems should provide the transparency to clearly show people how they are doing compared to others, enabling them to earn a reputation based on their performance against that data. The systems will also create a community of peers to encourage collaboration, goal setting, and competition.

4. Dazzle Your Customers: Make Them Love Your Company!

In today’s business world, observes Evans, very often, the first experience a business has with a new business partner is via technology. Chris Bright, cofounder of customer experience consultancy Customer Voodoo, believes that for this reason, it’s imperative that CIOs put customer experience on their radar by making technology decisions with the customer in mind and working to understand how everyday IT activities impact customers.


Indeed, it’s becoming more common for technologists to accompany sales people very early in engagement cycles to help ensure seamless initial customer experiences. According to Rick Hassman, director of corporate applications at Pella, a window and door manufacturing company, a concerted effort is being made to help IT personnel understand how they influence every interaction with Pella’s customers. Now, IT staff members are coming to senior leaders with ideas for improvement, igniting a very powerful change in the organization. Read Profit’s interview with Bright about creating great customer experiences and a Profit feature on the importance of leadership when building customer loyalty to discover additional cross-organizational customer experience insights from Bright.

The key takeaway from CIO thought leaders? Today’s business environment requires CIOs to take advantage of innovative thinking and new technologies in their organizations to have transformational business impact and enable customer value.

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