CIO Playbook: Become a Transformational Chief Information Officer

Becoming a transformational Chief Information Officer is the key to remaining relevant in business today. Two experts explain how CIOs must adapt to changing times.


Nov 05, 2019

The evolving role of the CIO has undergone a drastic metamorphosis to keep up with changing organizational cultures and expectations in today's business landscape of digital transformation. Becoming a transformational Chief Information Officer is the key to remaining relevant to business partners during this period of rapid organizational change.

But how can you make the shift from being a traditional CIO to becoming a transformational chief information officer? Industry analyst, Michael Krigsman, spoke with two outspoken industry leaders to gain advice on the transformational CIO role.

Tim Crawford is a well-known CIO strategic advisor; during the discussion, Michael Krigsman mentions that Tim seems to have originated the term “transformational CIO.” Isaac Sacolick is the author of Driving Digital, a book that explores themes that are important to transformational CIOs.

Traditional vs. Transformational CIO

According to Tim, it’s important to understand the differences between the traditional and transformational CIO roles. For instance, the traditional CIO is very tech-centric, focused on a project with a start and a finish. The transformational CIO, on the other hand, tends to be business-centric, giving their attention to product and customer experience.

Another way in which the CIO role has seen a significant cultural change is the fact that a CIO can no longer limit themselves to working with the technology for the business. You also need to work with other departments, outside partners, and customers to help build the platform for how an organization is going to operate over the next five to ten years.

That means being able to understand the metrics related to other parts of the business--from supply chains to customer experience and everything in between--and understand how technology plays a role. As Tim puts it succinctly, you’re thinking business first, but technology is in your domain to be able to bring that to the conversation.

Today’s CIO also has to be in lockstep with their company’s CEO. In particular, Isaac says, it means putting yourself in the shoes of the CEO and thinking about the challenges across the entire organization. It also includes understanding the business objectives set for the board of directors and the C-suite and aligning yourself with the CEO in such a way that you know which technologies you can bring to the conversation to help advance those goals.

Tom and Isaac both acknowledge that transitioning from a traditional CIO to a transformational CIO role is a difficult leap. It means getting out of your comfort zone. An example Tim cites is switching industries. For example, if you’re in banking, take what you’ve learned in that industry and see how it can apply to, say, healthcare. Putting yourself in different situations and learning on the fly and being able to react to unfamiliar situations can translate into having the confidence to respond competently to rapidly changing conditions in any part of your company.

Tim says that we are currently at a crossroads in finding transformational CIOs. The older generation of CIOs have experience, and many are also still willing to learn new skills, but that takes time. Younger, aspiring CIO candidates are coming into the organization already well-versed in diverse disciplines, such as application development, Agile, and DevOps, and are already comfortable talking to businesspeople. What they lack is the perspective that comes with experience.

But for those who have made the leap, the hard and important work becomes exciting, as both Tim and Isaac believe that there has never been a better time to be a CIO leader.

Watch the video embedded above and read the complete transcript below. The transcript was lightly edited.


Michael Krigsman: The role of the CIO is changing, it's evolving, and we need to understand what's behind those changes. Today, we're speaking with two of the most influential commentators and observers of the CIO role in the world. Isaac Sacolick and Tim Crawford are our guests on CXOTalk. Tim, you're the first person that I heard use the phrase "transformational CIO." How did you come up with that concept or that phrase and when did you start to use it?

Tim Crawford: Several years ago, we were talking about the death of the CIO. I was trying to find a way to distinguish between the traditional CIO, what I refer to now as the traditional CIO versus the transformational CIO. That's really where the genesis of the term came from in understanding the traits that differentiate the two types of CIOs as well as the terms themselves.

What is a Transformational CIO?

Michael Krigsman: Isaac, this term, "transformational CIO," what does it actually mean?

Isaac Sacolick: When I put it in a business perspective, the types of things that companies are doing today to remain competitive, grow market share, and build great experiences are things that need to evolve from the last five years to today to the next five years. A tremendous role of driving that change and transformation is in fact within the technology department and the role of the CIO, not only just working with the technology, but working with customers and working with partners, and really building the platform for how an organization is going to operate over the next five to ten years.

Michael Krigsman: If we were to summarize, we could say that the transformational CIO role takes a broader perspective than the CIO role historically. Would that be accurate?

Tim Crawford: I think it's a little more nuanced than that. You really have to get into some of the traits, the specific traits to understand how it is nuanced. For example, the traditional CIO is very tech-centric whereas the transformational CIO tends to be very business-centric. Then there are a number of traits that fall underneath that.

When you start to understand the differentiation between those traits, you start to very clearly see these are two very different personas. It's clear to see that there is a certain CIO persona that's going away and another CIO persona that is absolutely starting to come up.

Isaac Sacolick: I think you could see that in terms of how the transformational CIO spends their time. The transformational CIO is going to be out talking to customers. They're going to be out looking at what other industries are doing that might be transformative and be applicable to their own. They're going to be building relationships with other executives to learn where their organization needs to move and do things differently. They're going to be very process-centric, how to use agile to bring business and IT folks to collaborate together. All of those things.

Then they're going to understand the ecosystem of technology a little bit different. There's just so much technology out there and the types of things that work in the environment are things that the CIO really has to be well versed in.

How is a Transformational CIO Different from a Traditional CIO?

Michael Krigsman: How is this different from the CIO role in the past, right? CIOs always worked with technologies. They always work with stakeholders.

Tim Crawford: Yes. There has been a need for this transformational CIO for some period of time. We just haven't seen that in the wild, so to speak, in terms of that persona. Business units, line of business folks have been wanting that for a long time, for years and years. We're not just talking three to five years. We're talking five to ten-plus years. They have wanted that in the IT leader.

The problem is, we haven't seen those traits come out in that IT leader. The language hasn't changed. As Isaac said, some of the traits haven't changed yet.

We're just now starting to see where there's an acknowledgment, but we have to make sure that we understand that it's not just the CIO themselves that have to change. It's the IT organization, top to bottom. It's also those outside of IT, in terms of how they look at the CIO and look at the role of IT. All of those together are what ultimately bring this transformation to bear.

Isaac Sacolick: We're expected to help companies and our companies become more competitive, be more versed, and have a core competency in technology. It's not just about, is the ERP running well or is the data center secure and reliable? It's, are we building customer-facing applications that really delight customers and bring new ones in? Are we making data and analytics a strategic advantage? Are we having a different kind of conversation of where all of this comes to play and makes workflows really efficient? That's a completely different type of mindset and conversation that we're having inside our organizations.

Tim Crawford: I'll take it a step further and say that there's a difference between keeping the training running on time and actually jumping into those business-centric conversations. What are the same conversations that the rest of the C-suite is having? Those are the same conversations that the transformational CIO needs to be having. As you said, those relationships are incredibly important but those relationships don't come unless you start to change the language; you start talking in business terms and less in technology terms.

Why Must the CIO Role Evolve?

Michael Krigsman: Isaac, what's the driver of this change? In other words, what's the imperative or the reason that CIOs must evolve?

Isaac Sacolick: This has been, actually, going around for 10, 15, even 20 years. I got involved in this when I was a CIO in the media industry. We all know media has been through multiple disruptive curves. It's really the first industry that was impacted by transformation technologies and digital technologies.

What we're seeing is, it's hitting banking. It's hitting healthcare. It's hitting nonprofits and manufacturing. Across the board, every company really needs more technical capabilities to be able to compete. That doesn't necessarily mean going and building a lot of technology or even going and buying a lot of technology. It's how to use what you have and evolve it over time so that it's actually driving strategic advantage.

That's a very different conversation than the CIO is having with their CEO. We're not talking about uptime, the reliability of systems, or what certain things cost. Our KPIs are really about how we're moving the organization forward, how our revenue is changing from legacy revenue to more digital revenue streams, and how we're impacting customers.

Tim Crawford: I'll even take it a step further and say that, unlike 15, 20 years ago, companies today can no longer operate without technology being at the heart of their business processes. That doesn't mean that we need those executives or need those line of business folks to understand more about technology. It's that we, as technology leaders, as CIOs, as IT leaders—and not everybody is that CIO title, but they still have that same responsibility—they need to be able to understand what is going on in the business and be able to bring technology to the forefront of that conversation.

Michael Krigsman: All right. You've described characteristics of transformational CIOs versus traditional CIOs. What's the heart of it? Get to the heart of what is the point of the difference.

Isaac Sacolick: For me, it comes down to personality. Can that CIO drive and be collaborative at the same time, really work with people and get them to think differently, work with executives and get them to think differently, drive a sense of urgency, create a collaboration where there's a lot of teamwork, people in the technology group working with people in marketing, working with people in operations, and coming up with solutions?

Tim Crawford: The CIO today needs to be a business leader first that happens to have responsibility for technology. When you put yourself in that framework, that frame of mind, it changes your perspective that you're thinking like the rest of the C-suite.

As the CIO today, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the CEO. You need to think like the CEO. What are the challenges across the entire organization? What are the business objectives that we have set for the board of directors and, consequently, for the rest of the C-suite? How do I align myself in such a way with the CEO such that I, as the CIO, know which technologies I can bring to the conversation to really catapult and help advance those business objectives?

You're thinking business first, but technology is in your bailiwick to be able to bring that to the conversation. That's the big differentiator today.

How have CIO Metrics and KPIs evolved?

Michael Krigsman: Isaac, you mentioned metrics earlier.

Isaac Sacolick: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: How do the metrics change as a CIO moves from being a traditional CIO to a transformational CIO?

Isaac Sacolick: The first thing is that if you're going to talk metrics and KPIs in particular, you're going to be talking about business outcomes. You're going to use language that a businessperson understands, not just a technical component of an answer. You're going to be talking about things that show a direct relationship between things that you can control and things that have some outcomes.

I really like presenting KPIs like a software company. I think a lot of what we're talking about is taking things that software companies have been doing for years and bring those skill sets into the average enterprise. How many releases are you doing? What impact has those releases had on the end customer? Who are your end customers? What is their value proposition? When you finish a release and you bring them some new capabilities, are they having a good satisfaction from that type of technology or capability that you're bringing them? Those are the types of things that I'm looking for in terms of KPIs.

Tim Crawford: One of the challenges that IT organizations have frequently is they're using technology metrics in a way that really doesn't apply to the line of business, really doesn't resonate with a line of business leader. A good example of this is uptime, system uptime, or application uptime.

To a line of business person, that really doesn't matter if the one piece of downtime you had was on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and you happen to be in the retail industry, or you experienced your outages during the last quarter of the year and you're in the retail industry when folks are really making their money. It's important to put metrics in place in terms of how you're engaging with customers, how you're understanding your supply chain metrics, how you're starting to reduce churn, increase involvement with the customer, build that stickier relationship using data in a meaningful way.

Some CIOs and IT organizations might say, "Well, wait a second. That's more of a line of business focus. That's not my focus." But the reality is, the transformational CIO understands those metrics. They also understand things like, what's my cycle time for the supply chain to get a product defect fixed in design, get it through engineering, get it out to contract manufacturing, and all the way back around and in the customers' hands? They understand what those metrics are and they also understand how technology plays a role. That's the difference between what we saw in the traditional CIO that might be more tech-centric versus the transformational CIO that tends to be more business-centric.

Isaac Sacolick: I also like the CIO getting involved in the front office when it comes to this. Go look at marketing. Go look at sales. They have plenty of metrics directly in the systems, in their CRMs, in their marketing tools, but what they don't have is a way of bringing all that data together and understanding the full lifecycle value of a customer or looking at a customer 360.

CIOs really need to spend a lot of their time on their front office and some of them are still scared about getting into areas that they're not well versed in, getting into areas where they may not know all the people or all the KPIs. Many of us are introverted. We became technologists for that reason, but we need to get out there and understand how these departments are functioning and how to make them grow because that's essentially the essence of transformation. Take what you're doing today, do it differently for where a customer needs you to be doing it but, also, help your front office organizations change with that.

Michael Krigsman: Isaac, you mentioned that there's an element of the historical, traditional CIO is very often an introvert. Now, this engagement with the business requires a deeper level of getting involved.

Isaac Sacolick: Yeah.

Culture Change and the CIO

Michael Krigsman: Isn't there a cultural dimension that needs to take place and a culture change aspect as well?

Isaac Sacolick: We've all faced, as CIOs, where we put a technology out or we put a process out and nobody signs up for it. Everybody goes back to the old way of doing things and that effectively is a failed transformation, right? Even taking something, upgrading it, and saying, "We're putting new tech out but it's going to essentially do what the old tech was doing, just better, faster, more efficient, and easier to use," that's not transformation. That's a transition. That's just a better technology platform.

What we're talking about is bringing new capabilities to an organization often going across silos of the organization, so now they have to collaborate and work together. We're shedding some behaviors that we can now automate and bring new capabilities and new data and analytics. That changes the way everybody in the organization actually works.

You, as a CIO, drive that transformation thinking that what you did before needs to be something different because the business expects it of you, and you need to do that in your department inside the IT organization, but you also need to be influential, collaborate, and partner with your business colleagues because they expect you to be a driver of that change. They don't understand it any better than you do and you're coming to them with new practices and capabilities. Who else is going to help them understand how to run these things?

CIO as Change Agent

Michael Krigsman: All right, Tim. Is the CIO then a technologist or a business change agent?

Tim Crawford: Yes. Both. [Laughter]

Isaac Sacolick: [Laughter] Both.

Tim Crawford: Both and all of the above. You have to be both. The CIO today is a really complicated role. It is a challenging role, more so than it probably ever has been because technology is changing at a pace we have never seen in the course of technology.

You have to be aware of those changes but, more importantly, you have to know where those changes are going to be applicable to your organization at the right time. It's not tech for tech's sake.

Isaac Sacolick: Mm-hmm.

Tim Crawford: We don't talk about tech for tech's sake anymore. We need to be focused on; this technology is appropriate for us because it addresses this business advantage. This technology, leave to the wayside because it doesn't have a place in our organization.

Understanding how those business groups come together and, as Isaac said, this is incredibly important. IT and the CIO is one of the few roles in the C-suite that looks across the entire organization. The reason why that becomes really important is this argument that says, "Well, maybe you don't need a CIO. It can be siloed in each of the different groups," well, you lose that continuity. Then the continuity falls at the feet of the CEO. That becomes problematic because it takes them off course as well.

I think it's important that the right CIO with the right focus looking across the organization, as Isaac was mentioning, is incredibly important but then, also, finding the right technology to bring into the conversation, not in tech terms, in business terms, at the right time for the right purpose is incredibly important. It is a complicated role. You've got to have great relationships with the rest of the C-suite, which is something that traditionally the CIO does not have. Having those relationships, building that trust, understanding what each of those line business folks are responsible for, understanding how your company makes money and spends money is incredibly important. When you start to do that, you start to realize which levers you can pull at the right time.

Isaac Sacolick: I think the DNA of the CIO and what they need to come to the table with as table stakes is really understanding the fundamentals of technology, data, and integration, but that's not the conversation we're having at the table. That's what's expected of you.

What you need to be doing at the table is understanding who is sitting there, what are their drivers, what are some things that are dated that you need to help them move off of, and what are some new things that you're going to bring to them? I do think it's also both. I think, in terms of action, in terms of your activity on a day-to-day basis, I think the game face that people want you to bring is that leadership role.

I think an element of this is also helping bring and retain talent around this. It's a scary time for people in the organization. They're hearing words like "automation." Am I going to have a job tomorrow?

There are people in the technology group that are caring about what technologies they learn so that they can be employable over the next three to five years. It's very hard to retain the best talent.

So much of that falls into the role of the CIO to be that leader that says, "This is the organization that we want to work with. This is the vision. This is how we're going to get there. Here are quick wins in our successes. Here's where we're having speedbumps."

Tim talked about SLAs and uptime. I like to talk about, how quickly do you recover from a problem? What was the impact of that problem? What did we learn from that problem? What are we going to do different so that it doesn't happen again or that we can recover from a problem faster? These are the kinds of things that CIOs are really spending their time on.

Michael Krigsman: These things that you're both talking about get right to the heart of the relevance of the CIO. The CIO who is not doing these things will find their relevance declining over time.

Tim Crawford: Well, I often say the CIO is dead. Long live the CIO.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Isaac Sacolick: [Laughter]

Tim Crawford: No, I'm dead serious about that. What I mean by that is, the traditional CIO, that role is dead. That is in decline. That is absolutely in decline. The transformational CIO is in demand. Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of folks that exhibit those traits.

Isaac Sacolick: Michael, you know I talk about this in the opening of my book Driving Digital. That CIO that's not moving the business forward, they're going to find a couple of things happen. The CEO might go and hire a chief digital officer. That CEO might go and hire consulting firms to go help them around what the CIO can't do.

If the CEO is taking on roles of managing change and managing technology, then that CIO is dead. The CIO needs to think about how they're spending their time, what is their focus, what is their body language, what are they really getting people engaged on, and really focus on where that business needs to go and how they're projecting that business toward it.

How Many CIOs are Genuinely Transformational?

Michael Krigsman: Tim, you said that there aren't that many of these transformational CIOs out there in the wild. Tell us about that. What's up with that?

Tim Crawford: The reality is that most of the CIOs that have that role today came up through the rank and file of the IT organization. The IT organization, generally speaking, wasn't very outwardly facing and so, these traits that the new CIO, the transformational CIO, needs to exhibit are not traits that were developed within the IT organization as they came up through the rank and file.

These are new traits that they have to learn. They're in an executive role. They have the responsibly to have a seat at the table. I want to be clear that that doesn't mean entitlement. They're not entitled to the seat at the table because they have the chief officer role.

That's a seat that you earn, but you have to develop certain behaviors and certain relationships in order to be offered that seat. Then you have to keep the seat too. It's not a one and done. It's something that you have to continually work at.

These traits are not something that gets developed in the IT organization. They get learned over time and you have to hone and craft those relationships and those traits. That takes time.

We've just hit a crossroads probably in the last few years where businesses have said, "Look. I absolutely need those traits today," so what does a CIO do? They start learning them, but it takes time. We're in this awkward time where we need it but we don't have it.

I think, as we go through time, we'll see those develop. We'll see more folks kind of rise to that occasion. But, yeah, right now there aren't many in the wild.

CIO and the Board of Directors

Isaac Sacolick: I'm a little more optimistic. I think there is a new generation of people who are coming and who are aspiring to be CIOs. They come in with great architecture backgrounds. They've done a lot of application development. They know agile and DevOps and cloud very well because that's all they've learned. They've never been in a data center.

They're highly conversive, so they've been developing applications between business and IT. They're happy talking to businesspeople and have that ability to have that conversation. But they don't necessarily have all the experience.

Where does experience drop off? Well, running the finances of an office of a CIO, particularly in medium and larger sized organizations, takes some skills and knowledge. Understanding how to bring complex people together and collaborate on really difficult things, particularly when businesses are feeling disruption, these are things that you have to be in that management meeting, in that boardroom, having just board experience. Being able to have the right conversation with the board is not something that someone who is new to the role is going to get. I do think we have a new generation of CIOs coming up with the right skills, but they have a lot to work on in terms of experience.

Tim Crawford: Even taking that one example of getting that board exposure and experience, you are not going to be invited to a board meeting if you don't have a good relationship with your CEO.

Isaac Sacolick: That's right.

Tim Crawford: The CEO is the doorway to the board.

Isaac Sacolick: That's right.

Tim Crawford: This is a great example where most CIOs today are still reporting to the CFO or reporting somewhere other than the CEO. Fortunately, that is starting to shift, which is a great indicator, but it's only one of many. I think building those relationships will start to help the CIO gain exposure to different conversations and they will start to evolve as a consequence of that.

How to Become a Transformational CIO?

Michael Krigsman: For CIOs or anyone in IT for that matter who has come up through the ranks as a technologist, not a business person, and now you're saying that it's the business skills that are all important, how can they learn those business skills? Do they pick it up by osmosis? What do you do?

Tim Crawford: I've long since said the gap between the CIO and one level below the CIO is the hardest gap to traverse.

Isaac Sacolick: Mm-hmm. That's right.

Tim Crawford: Getting to that first CIO role is the hardest gap you will ever take within the IT advancement in your career. But I think the right CIO is now starting to realize that they need to groom their organization and, as Isaac said, there's a lot more aspiration to be part of these IT organizations, be part of that leadership team, and be prepared for that new CIO role. That's the encouraging piece here.

Isaac Sacolick: Tim is dead right about that. You could be the head of application development and then your role is to know that discipline really well, but you don't really learn the other disciplines around security, operations, or program management, the things that really run a CIO's office. You rarely get a glimpse of what the CIO's job is. How do they spend their day? What are they really focused on? How do you get lieutenants to actually fill certain roles for you?

What I tell people in those roles is, get used to getting out of your comfort zone.

Tim Crawford: Mm-hmm.

Isaac Sacolick: That's the first rule. Go learn another job. Go learn and see how business is operating. Switching industries, ten years ago, was frowned upon. You try to become an expert in your particular industry. Go pick up and see what you've learned in banking and apply it in healthcare.

Tim Crawford: Mm-hmm.

Isaac Sacolick: You're going to see a lot of the same patterns but a lot of different terminology and a lot of different drivers. Getting used to putting yourself in different situations and learning on the fly and reacting gives you the confidence that, when you're put in that situation as a CIO, you can actually respond to it.

Michael Krigsman: If you're a CIO who has to learn how to have a basic set of conversations with the business, you're kind of a long way from being a transformational CIO as you guys have defined it.

Tim Crawford: You are. The gap between the traditional CIO and the transformational CIO is pretty large.

Michael Krigsman: Let's quantify. How large? Is it this large, this large, or like this large?

Tim Crawford: I think that's better defined by the individual and how the individual learns and how malleable the individual is, or if the individual is set in their way, for example. I'll make this a little generational because I've started to see trends around generations of CIOs and how they adapt to these changes. Folks that are further on in their careers tend to have a harder time making these types of adjustments. Folks that are earlier in their career are much more malleable to learning new things, learning new behaviors, building different relationships than folks that are further into their career.

That is just one aspect of it and it's not definitive. There can be older generations that are further in their careers that are absolutely malleable. It comes back more of the persona of the individual, what they're really passionate about, and if they're really able to tie that into thinking like that CEO.

Just to be clear on that point, I'm not talking about being the CEO of technology because there has been this narrative around the CIO of today needs to be the CEO of technology. I actually don't agree with that. I don't think that is the right mindset to get into, but I do think the CIO needs to be in lockstep with the CEO of the company and think like the CEO of the company, just to be clear.

Isaac Sacolick: That's part of the role, right? A CIO has dozens if not hundreds of projects going on at any single time; lots of different aspects of operations. Part of the role of the CIO is to figure out what to spend time on.

Tim Crawford: Right.

Isaac Sacolick: Where is your time needed? It's going to be very different than when you're having a strategic discussion right before a budget period or when you're fighting a fire and customers are being impacted.

Michael Krigsman: Guys, we're talking about this role of the transformational CIO. Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. Frankly, you guys are full of it. We don't need to change. I'm a CIO. I'm very successful in my company. I have been doing this for a long time. Why should I change?

Tim Crawford: I have a very simple phrase to answer that. What got you here won't get you there. It's a very simple phrase, but it's incredibly important that the things that I was successful with as a CIO and as an IT leader all of those years, I cannot rely on those traits, those aspects to carry me forward. I have to change.

I have to change in the way that I lead, what I focus on, the conversations I have, the staff that I bring in. I have to think very differently. How I led IT in the past will not be how I need to lead IT in the future.

Michael Krigsman: Isaac, tell me; how should I change? What should I do?

Isaac Sacolick: I think you should be looking at how you're spending your time. I think that's the very first thing I tell CIOs is, what is your day, your week, your month look like? Are you spending 30%, 50%, 70% of your time with your staff? How much time are you spending with your executives? Most importantly, how much time are you spending outside of the office?

Flip that equation around and look at it in reverse from the way I just said it. How much time are you spending out of the office learning, influencing, capturing information? How much time you're spending with your executives getting alignment, presenting solutions, discussing ideas, showing how change has to happen, and then bring that down to your staff, and hiring, recruiting, and mentoring lieutenants to do the staff work for you?

It's not that you're going to abandon your staff or that they're not important. It's that you need a very strong leadership team who is going to be able to have those kinds of conversations with the staff and explain where the organization is going and why certain things are prioritized and why certain platforms are preferred over others. If you can't rely on your staff to do that then that CIO is going to be slowed down. I think that's the big transformation in terms of how CIOs are working today.

Tim Crawford: I would take it a step further. I think you and I have had conversations about this in the past so I know where your thoughts are here. Just to clarify for the folks that might be looking at this conversation, the important thing is, when you're spending your time outside, it's not just at conferences with your peer group.

Isaac Sacolick: That's right.

Tim Crawford: It's with customers. You need to understand. Just like the CEO, you need to understand what your customers are thinking, what their experiences are. That's incredibly important.

Your staff needs to be exposed to folks outside of IT and outside of the company as well. That's going to help them grow. That's going to help them advance as well.

Isaac Sacolick: Right.

Tim Crawford: All of these things need to come into the conversation.

Isaac Sacolick: It's actually beyond that, right? You're not just going to have a conversation with a customer. What you're trying to learn is, what are they doing with your product and service? What are they doing before that? What are they doing after that? How do they think about alternatives?

You're becoming closer to becoming a product person when you ask those kinds of questions, but you're going to look at it through the lens of a technologist because you're going to see things that you can potentially do for them as a product, a service, or as an enhancement to make their lives easier. That's coming up with value propositions. That's coming up with ideas. That's coming up with a relationship that you can actually go test ideas with over time and seeing what's going to work and what might not work.

Tim Crawford: A good example of what we did before versus what we do today and moving forward is changing our organization to think less about how to run a project and, rather, think about how to run a product, how to get more product-centric because products have lifecycles. They evolve over time. Projects have a start and an end and then you move on to the next thing.

We have to stop thinking about the start and end. That's a good example of how what got us here in being successful project owners is not going to get us there.

Isaac Sacolick: That's also a good example of what you need to share with your C-suite. The CFO still thinks in projects. What are you investing in? How long? What are you delivering? What's the ROI?

Most of what we're delivering today doesn't have an end date. It never had an end date. We always were supporting what we built after that, but today we're evolving it. we're integrating it. We're making it smarter. We're improving the user experience around it. We're taking feedback from customers and saying, "What does it need to do differently?"

That's not a project anymore. That's an entire ecosystem that you're putting together, whether it's in supply chain or working with sales, operations, or even coming up with digital products that you sell.

Michael Krigsman: Final thoughts as we finish up?

Tim Crawford: This change from a traditional CIO to a transformational CIO is not for the faint of heart. It is hard. It is hard work but it's incredibly important work and it's incredibly fulfilling work.

Forget about the folks that have made the transition. The people that have started to make that transition are having the time of their life. This is hard work but it's incredibly exciting and it's got to be the best time to be a CIO, to be an IT leader.

Isaac Sacolick: Look. I think transformation is the heart of the CIO and of the IT group. I agree with you, Tim. I hear people reporting to the CIO that are like, "Gosh. I just finished the last thing you asked me and you're giving me the next two things that I need to go out and do." That is the role of technology that needs to play in many organizations.

I think CIOs have to drive organizations to go 30%, 40%, 50% more than what they can do. The quality has to be 30%, 40%, 50% more. It's not easy. I have a blog post out there about CIOs having a target on their back because the more you promise, the more you're looking to do, the expectations grow over time and people expect you to follow through.

Tim Crawford: Mm-hmm.

Isaac Sacolick: If you say no to someone the first time and the second time, they're going to expect you to say yes the third time or the fourth time. Our scope gets longer. Our expectations get deeper. That's the role of the CIO and of the IT group. I think, if you're going to play this role out, you have to be able to up your game every single time you deliver.

Tim Crawford: A good indicator of that, and I'm starting to see this, are those transformed organizations where people that are outside of IT now want to be part of the IT organization. We haven't seen that, where people want to be part of IT. They usually want to keep us away from what they're doing. For those organizations that truly have evolved, their culture has evolved, how people outside of IT has evolved, that's incredibly important.

Isaac Sacolick: Yep.

Michael Krigsman: All right. A fascinating conversation. We've been speaking with Tim Crawford and Isaac Sacolick about the transformational CIO. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tim Crawford: Thanks, Michael.

Isaac Sacolick: Thanks. Thank you, Michael.

Published Date: Nov 05, 2019

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 632