The role of the CIO is rapidly changing. Recent research tells the story that a digital CIO is a man of marketing – to create a “platform of trust” with business and to re-brand the IT organisation. It is all about managing expectations in every interaction with business. But what does it mean? And how to get started?

I try to read as many research papers as possible that describe the digital affects on the IT organisations and role of CIO. Each research paper gives a small but valuable piece to the digital puzzle. They all have one thing in common: the fact that the role of CIO is rapidly changing.

A CIO is no longer a technical expert that monitors servers, but rather a business enabler that bridges the gap between IT and Business – a pivotal role in the digital transformation. While 2/3 of business leaders state that they are not prepared for digitalisation (Ricoh 2016), they are mostly satisfied with the CIO and his/her capabilities of driving the digital transformation. What are the key elements in the CIO capabilities that are necessary for driving change?

When I talk to CIOs, I see that the digital transformation is high on their agenda. However, the CIO needs to build a ‘platform of trust’ with business – in terms on stability, cost efficiency, risk mitigation, business collaboration and value creation – to gain access to the strategic partnership with business going forward and drive the digital agenda.

I see too many IT organisations jumping from a stability focus (not achieving the platform of trust) to running a digital agenda with little success. Let’s try to avoid that!


CIO, can you communicate?

According to the Ricoh CIO study (public sector, 2016), the top three CIO capabilities today (selected by business leaders) were quite surprising:

  1. Communication & Marketing
  2. Technical expertise
  3. Business understanding

A successful CIO (valued by the business leaders) is one that easily can communicate and “sell” a new role of IT for driving the digital transformation. A marketing person!

As we all know, marketing is based on a ‘platform of trust’ between the vendor and the client. It is difficult to sell anything if the reputation has been blackened by poor quality or too expensive services. How do you react when you have bought a new car that soon breaks down and cost more than expected? Will you buy a similar brand again – and what will you tell your friends?

Trust (in all business interactions) is obviously built on the expectations we as customers have on the commodity or service we buy – to create great experience. We have in our minds expectations on everything we do and buy that can either be fulfilled or lost. We constantly evaluate brands, people and situations to figure out what we like and don’t like.

The modern digital CIO is all about managing expectations, building a ‘platform of trust’ and re-brand the IT organisation. What is interesting is that expectations are managed in all interactions between IT and business – and not just the final delivery of a project. It is called Moment of Truth!


Running IT is like running any other business

But wasn’t this a study related to public CIOs? Slow down! Is the situation of public CIOs really different from that of corporate CIOs? Well, that is up for interpretations but my view is that public CIOs have very similar situation than corporate CIO – maybe a bit more challenging in driving the digital agenda. For me, the logical reasoning works also for a corporate CIO.

My point of view is that running IT is more or less like running any other business. IT has its product/services, price list, customers, budget and interaction with customers. If IT does not deliver what is expected from its customer – the customer will go somewhere else (shadow IT). Digitalisation is changing (very much for IT) the customer demand requiring faster and relevant services delivered without any problem. As any other business, the IT department has to address these requirements but also be proactive and highlight how IT can support its customer’s competitiveness – by managing expectations, building a “platform of trust” and re-brand the IT organisation. Try to imagine the alternative!



  • Try to view the CIO’s roll as a man of marketing – with an aim to re-brand the IT organisation. What would that mean for you? Would you need to learn more about marketing and sales?
  • Ask yourself what you are doing to build a “platform of trust”? How are you managing expectations? What happens when the “platform of trust” falls?
  • It is important to figure out what kind of marketing message the IT organisation want to communicate to business. How would you describe IT’s value proposition in a sentence or two?

To tell someone to re-brand the IT organisation is quite easy – but to take the first step on the journey is trickier. How does marketing fit in too our daily work of budgeting, vendor negotiations and reporting?

The fact is that marketing fits into every part of the CIO daily agenda. Think about how you are perceived in the vendor negotiations or weekly meeting with your team or in meetings with business. What messages (verbal and physical) to do communicate? How important do signal that they are for you? That is where it all starts – with a smile.


About the author

Hans Gillior is Senior Advisor at Sofigate, specialising in IT management with expertise in Performance Management (Business Controlling, Governance and IT Strategy) and Digital Strategy/Performance in various industry. He also has expertise in Agile IT Performance Management with purpose of optimising business value of IT organisations working in fast changing environment due to high level of disruptive digital trends.

Original source of this text: Hans Gillior’s blog post


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