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Six Reasons a CIO Advisor May Benefit Your Business
Simon Ratcliffe, Principal Consultant, Advisory
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Many organizations use external CIO advisors to great effect. Utilizing a CIO advisor benefits smaller businesses without senior leadership, and helps large organizations illustrate the advantages of their IT department and empower their leaders. Whether driven from within IT or the business, consulting with a CIO advisor may be a crucial next step for your organization, especially if you fall under these use cases.

1. Small IT with no CIO

Smaller IT teams often have a head of IT who serves as an operational resource with broad responsibilities across the function. In this situation, the head of IT is unlikely to have the capacity to innovate beyond the core operations of the department and is unlikely to engage regularly with the business to understand their imperatives.

Employing a full-time CIO is an expensive solution, and that’s assuming an experienced CIO is interested in the role. Using a CIO advisor as a part-time resource is more efficient and effective, allowing the company to utilize experienced consultants with knowledge across a variety of industries.

Consulting with a CIO advisor is not an admission of failure by the head of IT, but an acknowledgement that IT needs to progress and become more integrated with the business. Working with a CIO advisor rapidly enables the head of IT to develop their own role into that of a CIO and prevents an external CIO from being imposed on them.

2. Mistrust of IT within the business

Many businesses still regard IT as a cost center similar to facilities management, finance and human resources. In many organizations, IT is underappreciated and their advice on the future of the business is rarely sought. As a result, the IT department may take a passive role, attempting to keep costs down and seeking budgetary needs only where necessary for replacements and upgrades. Often, the business seeks out the IT department’s expertise only after significant decisions have already been made.

When an IT department is viewed this way, a CIO advisor can engineer changes in perception by interacting with the business, engaging directly with senior leadership and making the business aware of the changes that can be created by utilizing their IT experts. The CIO advisor can act as an evangelist for the department while gathering business imperatives from the board of directors and helping the IT department translate these into viable technical solutions. Ultimately, the CIO advisor brings IT to the forefront of the business process and champions engagement at the beginning of new ventures.

3. Evolving IT function that requires mentoring

Many IT functions are still trying to evolve from the internal service function. In most cases, the business recognizes the value of IT and requests input, but the IT department is having difficulty rising to the challenge. New IT functions can suffer the same growing pains, and a CIO advisor can be used strategically to help set up or change governance, structure and strategy, if needed.

The CIO advisor assists in restructuring by using their experience with and knowledge of similar organizations to help promote change across other departments. Too often, IT functions will undergo dramatic internal change but will not integrate this into the culture of the organization, causing the benefits of their effort to go unrealized. CIO advisors are business-focused individuals with a strong technology background and volumes of experience promoting significant change that allows the organization to grow.

The same approach applies to new and emerging IT functions, as they need to be promoted within the business and shown as capable leaders in the modern digital world.

4. Business seeking CIO to challenge the board

The need for a CIO advisor can emerge when the business itself identifies the need to be challenged by the IT function and requires an individual who is highly aware of business needs while possessing proven capabilities with technology.

The CIO advisor will work with both the business and IT to build confidence in the IT department’s capabilities and bring the teams together in a more effective working partnership.

Since the business often seeks the appointment, IT may feel marginalized, but a strong CIO advisor will work equally effectively with the business and IT to make sure they are integrated into processes and decisions.

5. Interim CIO function

A CIO advisor can act as an interim CIO, working with the existing team to identify potential candidates for promotion to CIO, as well as creating and executing a development program that enables candidates to learn the skills they’ll need for the job. Ongoing personal mentoring programs can be implemented to assist the new candidate during the transition into their new role.

Organizations often find that this approach is more effective and cost-efficient than simply looking outside the business for a replacement CIO, as it builds on knowledge and experience gained within the company.

6. IT team overwhelmed with operational issues

IT teams can become overwhelmed with operational issues, leaving little or no time for development or innovation. A CIO advisor can work with the IT team to prioritize issues and introduce new governance, processes and tooling to achieve a marked reduction in the operational issues.

At this point, the CIO advisor can continue to work with the IT team to develop a more effective approach, prevent overload situations from arising, and ensure that new governance and processes are properly embedded into the organization.

Good advisors are those who engage with the business and are tied to the delivery of measurable objectives rather than those who simply observe and comment. These people often help both IT and business achieve their goals, allowing the organization to innovate and gain a larger share of the market.

About the Author

An established thought leader and innovator, Simon served as a Virtual CIO, CIO Advisor and Leadership Mentor for a wide variety of organisations before joining Ensono as Principal Consultant. He is an IT evangelist capable of promoting the value of IT within organisations by developing a single strategic vision that unites business and the IT department. Simon holds a Master of Arts from University of Cambridge and is a trained psychologist and former finance director.