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What CEOs expect from CIOs

Richard Pastore | May 15, 2013
CEOs want CIOs who know their industries, think like customers and can envision new business opportunities.

 With so many technologies commoditized, consumerized and increasingly available as cloud services, the traditional CIO responsibilities of technology selection, procurement and management are becoming less and less relevant. “It’s imperative that we become, over time, more business strategists and transformation leaders than we are today,” says Louie Ehrlich, the president of Chevron Information Technology and CIO of Chevron who also serves as a leader of the Council and is a member of its board of advisors. To solicit the opinion of progressive CEOs for this article, the Council contacted member organizations representing a range of industries and company sizes.

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For years, CIOs have asserted—mostly to each other—that they provide a unique, cross-enterprise perspective. Now, more CEOs appear to recognize the value of that perspective, and they expect IT leaders to share it with them. (Related: "Why CIOs Need to Think Like CEOs") “The CIO is the person who has the most exposure to all the ways that we take care of our customers and the best insight over how the whole company functions and what’s important to each individual department,” says Rodger Riney, founder and CEO of online brokerage Scottrade. Recognizing this, Riney and CEOs like him expect IT leaders to provide valuable counsel on business decisions and the impact they will have across the company.

Riney says Ian Patterson, Scottrade’s CIO and executive director of information technology, “has a monumental task in trying to educate 10 people (or a couple of dozen if you include directors), half of whom think they’re pretty good at IT because they have an iPhone they can tap on and make cool things happen. He brings us all down to earth and says that the iPhone is only the front end, and it’s what’s underneath it that counts. And that is a very, very complicated system with many interdependencies.”

Leo Kiely, CEO of MillerCoors (TAP), learned to appreciate the CIO’s cross-enterprise expertise when he was head of sales and marketing with Frito-Lay (PEP) in the 1980s. Pioneering CIO Charlie Feld was running IT then. “Feld and his team actually understood how my team got work done better than I did,” Kiely recalls. Because of this enterprise knowledge, “I learned to believe back then that your IT leader sets the pace for the company’s ability to change.”

The pace of change has been set to “brisk,” he says, by MillerCoors CIO Jeanine Wasielewski. She developed the plan for integrating the former Miller and Coors organizations after the companies merged. “There’s an appetite for IT across my organization that is three times what I’ve got a budget for,” notes Kiely. “Jeanine’s got to advise us on what to invest in first so that we can rebuild our whole infrastructure in an orderly way.”


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