|5 Minutes

How CIOs Can Win Over the C-Suite with Proactive IT

How CIOs Can Win Over the C-Suite with Proactive IT

Over $20 million per year.

That’s how much a large business can lose when their IT departments can’t keep up with employee demand and C-suite expectations. And at most companies, much of the blame for those losses falls on the shoulders of the CIO.

Because their impact is so difficult to quantify, many CIOs still struggle with the executive perception that IT is a cost center rather than a business enabler.

In recent years, however, the role of the CIO has evolved. In fact, after IT teams worked miracles to keep employees up and running during the pandemic in 2020, many CIOs found themselves in executive meetings that had previously eluded them.

Still the same questions remain:

How can CIOs articulate IT’s role in driving ROI?

Why have executives disregarded CIOs in the past – and what can be done now to bridge the gap?

The Cost of an Interruption: minor IT issues contribute to major losses year-over-year.

An application running slowly for just one hour per day might not seem like a major indictment of an IT strategy, and by extension, a CIO.

But in reality, these daily issues can have a serious impact on productivity and lead to huge losses within a given year.

In a report conducted with independent research firm, Vanson Bourne, Nexthink found that the average employee suffers around 100 IT interruptions per year.

These interruptions last around 28 minutes. But here’s another issue: employees report just over half (55%) of the incidents they suffer. The productivity losses of IT issues are likely worse than estimated.

When you translate those productivity losses to their true costs, the situation looks even more dire. For a company of 10,000 employees, the summation of IT incidents equates to costs of $500,000 per week and $25 million per year.

So yes, some of the disconnect between CIOs and executives has stemmed from not-so-tech-savvy C-suites or from previous meetings where a CIO should have been invited in. But the cost figures cited above point to a bigger issue: reactive IT.

Reactive IT spending becomes an Achilles’ heel for CIOs – driving costs without improving employee experience.

It’s no surprise that executives aren’t on board with spending more on reactive IT support. For years, they’ve poured money into ticketing and technology management tools – and seen very little return on their investments.

Applications are still slow, networks are still buggy, and employees continue to frequently report IT issues. With such high costs and such little progress, executives are more inclined to take an adversarial approach to CIOs. They label IT as a “cost center”: always looking for bigger budgets, never making real improvements.

Not sure if you’re running a reactive department? Ask yourself:

  • Are employees reporting network issues, or are IT pros finding and fixing issues before they impact employees?
  • Are critical systems – backups, power supplies, etc. – able to issue alerts about potential issues, rather than failures that have already occurred?
  • Is your IT department investigating the root causes of issues, or is all of their time spent fixing issues as they occur?

If you find yourself stuck in a break/fix loop where employees are the link between IT and tech issues, you’re trapped in a reactive response model.

After stepping up during the pandemic, CIOs finally have the attention of the C-suite.

C-suite executives don’t often view IT as a line-of-business (LOB) champion, since the limitations of existing processes (long load times, random crashes, network connectivity issues) all cost time and money to solve. It’s not that CIOs are asking for money to innovate and coming up short; they’re looking for cash just to stay afloat.

Fortunately, CIOs – many of them, at least – are in a newly advantageous position when it comes to their relationships with executives.

IT departments faced extreme pressure during the pandemic, as they had to quickly enable the unexpected shift to fully remote work. After CIOs “helped save their enterprises”, the gap between their priorities and those of C-suite executives has begun to close.

Here are some promising results of IDG’s recent State of the CIO survey:

  • 66% of CIOs have strengthened their relationships with CEOs as a result of the pandemic.
  • 82% say they have implemented new technologies and IT strategies due to the pandemic.
  • 96% of CIOs say their role is expanding beyond IT responsibilities.

With this new degree of influence, CIOs have a profound opportunity to shift perspectives across the C-suite. But if they revert back to asking for a higher budget for reactive IT solutions, their newly improved relationships with executives will quickly return to the status quo.

With a proactive approach, CIOs have more power than ever to drive business strategy. 

Changing perspectives means shifting to a fully transparent, proactive IT workforce. It’s not just about adopting a new tool; it’s a transformation of an IT department’s entire approach to service and employee experience.

Such a complex investment starts at the top, with the executive team. Only with their sign-off and commitment can an IT department begin its path of transformation towards a long-term, proactive strategy.

With the attention of the C-suite, CIOs are now poised to get that sign-off. To convince executives that IT investment can improve business performance, it’s critical to demonstrate actionable benefits – such as reduced user downtime, fewer incidents, and higher employee productivity – that are only possible when IT departments embrace a proactive mindset.

IT no longer has to wear the stigma of “cost center” – but it’s up to the CIO to make that case.