Modernizing IT: How to thrive as a CIO value broker

Modernizing IT: How to thrive as a CIO value brokerYou might think that the CIO of a billion-dollar business would have nothing good to say about shadow IT. After all, rogue deployments have been keeping senior IT execs up at night for years, wondering if those a la carte antics will open the gates to a major security breach or break applications across the network.

But that’s not at all how Ian Pitt, CIO of LogMeIn, sees it. “Shadow IT keeps the IT people on their toes. It introduces competition and we learn that if we’re not delivering user requirements, users will look elsewhere,” he told

However, this isn’t a story about shadow IT. It’s a story about the changing role of the CIO in an era of lightning-fast technological change and increasing demands that IT become closer, much closer, to the business side of the enterprise. Pitt’s cautious embrace of shadow IT is a symptom of the redefinition of the CIO’s role, from service provider to what’s being called “a value broker.”

“CIOs must be able to deliver value in measurable terms. The CIO must move from back-office technology provider to front-office digital disrupter talking to clients within the business,” said Andrew Wilson, CIO of Accenture.

Wilson made his remarks during a 2015 videotaped interview with Chad Quinn, president of Ecosystems, a business consultancy, which conducted more than 100 interviews with IT and finance execs from 92 companies. The interviews became the basis of a report that helped popularize the concept of value broker.

Two years later, said Quinn, the trend has only accelerated, and woe unto the CIO who isn’t paying attention.

Building better business relationships

Consider the high-level bloodletting in the IT department of Warburg Pincus last year after a Salesforce deployment went south. IT leadership had plenty of experience implementing Salesforce CRM applications, but seemed stuck in the mindset of a “glorified contact manager,” said Warburg Pincus CTO Raj Kushwaha. That isn’t at all what the sales team needed, and the disconnect between IT and sales cost some IT execs their jobs, he added.

Understanding what the sales team needed was more than a matter of a quick meeting or two. The company’s new IT leadership adopted what Kushwaha calls an “outside-in approach,” based on starting with the customer (in this case the sales team) and working with them to a solution, rather than seeing the technology as the starting point.

“Don’t try to explain the technology to the business units; talk to the business guys in terms they understand,” he said. Ultimately, IT and sales realized that what was needed was a set of applications to give sales people a historical view of everything about a customer and her historical interactions with Warburg Pincus, including deals she was involved in — and to make it available in real time.

As a way to bring IT and the business units closer together at Driscoll’s, the multinational berry distributor, CIO Tom Cullen embedded senior IT leaders in business units. “It’s a new reporting structure. They have a foot in IT and a foot in business and help the units adhere to standards,” he said.