CIO role: 4 ways to do more with less

In times of economic uncertainty, leaders are pressed to maximize the value of the resources they have. These tips can help you boost efficiency and drive innovation
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If market volatility, inflation, and tech layoffs are any indication, 2023 may be a challenging year for tech professionals and business leaders. As executives navigate a maelstrom of macroeconomic forces, CIOs may receive directives to do more with less or be more efficient with time and resources.

CIOs have a unique mandate to drive business agility and generate the requisite capabilities to identify and respond to changes in the marketplace and customer behaviors. To execute this mandate, CIOs must be agile and nimble.

To drive efficiency for themselves and their business, CIOs must align with the broader business strategy, stay out of the weeds, and avoid being pigeonholed into narrow focus areas.

1. Align with the business as a whole

One way to become more efficient is by ensuring that you are aligned with your organization’s broader business strategy as executed by your peers on the leadership team.

[ Also read 6 goals that should be top of mind for CIOs. ]

This may seem obvious, but especially in our new age of remote and hybrid work where our peers may not physically surround us, it’s easy to run the risk of inadvertently diverging from the “true north” of an organization’s strategy.

When an organization’s leadership team acts as a united front in everything they do, the business only stands to gain. Business strategies must be implemented from the top down; all teams, from IT to communications to sales, must be well-versed in their company’s goals, standards, and growth opportunities. Through regular check-ins with executives and strategic planning sessions, make sure your organization is moving forward as one unit.

To ensure you’re making the best use of your time and that your hard work isn’t in vain, achieve crystal-clear alignment with the broader organization. These efforts to bridge the knowledge gap between IT and the business will have the added benefit of enabling you to wield more influence around technology purchase decisions and talent development.

If you have a deep knowledge of the business functions, you’ll have more credibility, for example, when the leadership team negotiates the size and scope of digital transformation projects.

2. Stay out of the weeds

Even the best CIOs can fall victim to a common efficiency-robbing habit: getting lost in the weeds on a particular project. As CIO, you have a lot on your plate, and it’s easy to miss deadlines or deliver sub-par performance if you get too focused on details your team can – and should – handle. Assuming you have a competent, trustworthy team, let go of more minor details and remain laser-focused on your organization’s desired strategic outcomes.

When CIOs feel compelled to control every detail, it can indicate a struggling organization. If a business’ IT arm is bogged down by legacy systems or an outpouring of manual and rote tasks that do nothing for business performance, the CIO will often be mired in dealing with organizational performance issues. That means more time managing internal fire drills and less time thinking strategically and making business-critical decisions.

Assuming you have a competent, trustworthy team, let go of more minor details and remain laser-focused on your organization's desired strategic outcomes.

If you feel virtually unable to step away from the weeds, consider escalating this inefficiency to your peers on the leadership team so you can get the resources, team members, and frameworks you need to let go of the details.

When you have the confidence and infrastructure to delegate details to your team, you’ll have much more bandwidth to focus on the big picture and drive your business forward.

3. Focus on outcomes

Enterprise technology purchase decisions are no longer based on IT’s siloed interests. They need to be based on what business problems the organization is trying to solve. The success or failure of those technology purchases should be tied to whether those business outcomes are achieved. Start with what outcomes you want to achieve as a business and work backward to find the right technology solution.

For example, if your organization is seeking to grow topline revenue growth, you might envision a solution that involves adopting agile and DevOps methodologies that emphasize speed and innovation, reducing the time-to-market for new ideas. If the business needs to cut expenses to improve cash flow, help negotiate an SLA with a cloud service provider more aligned with business outcomes.

By having a finger on the pulse of other teams’ goals and pain points, you can prioritize projects and allocate resources appropriately.

4. Lead by example

For CIOs, the benefits of efficiency are numerous. First, your efficiency will have an outsized impact on the work you delegate to your team. If a project’s strategies are ideated and structured efficiently, tech teams will have a clear sense of process, timing, potential roadblocks, and the expected result.

Beyond the immediate impact of efficiency lies the power of leading by example. For an entire organization or team to be successful, it is imperative that staff members – especially junior staff members – see their leaders as role models worthy of emulation.

When senior leaders such as CIOs drive innovation through efficiency, their teams will follow suit. By aligning with the broader business strategy, staying out of the weeds, and collaborating with other teams, you can help drive efficiency for yourself, your team, and the entire organization.

[ Get advice from leading CIOs on how to overcome common digital transformation challenges. Download the Ebook: Build a resilient IT culture. ]

Global Head of Consulting at LTIMindtree, Sreedhar Bhagavatheeswaran heads consulting services. He comes with rich and diverse experience in the Banking and Financial Services industry. He has worked with several global financial services institutions helping them innovate with digital technologies.