You Can’t Think Big Enough

You Can’t Think Big Enough

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September 16, 2013
312 CIO

You’re a CIO, not a business strategist. Right? Increasingly, the answer to that question is well—not so fast. If IT is enabling just about every aspect of the business, then why not enable the strategy of the business as well?

“You need to have a business vision yourself. Three hours a week, every week, I block out my calendar,” says Tim Elkins, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of PrimeLending in Dallas, Texas. “And what I do is I literally sit and document my business vision.”

Here’s a worthwhile exercise for any technologist who wants to look back on their tenure as CIO and see that they have truly influenced the organization:

  1. Find a business plan and download it. Give yourself a basic framework to work within. Then challenge yourself to envision what it’s like to walk into your organization one year from today. Then envision three years. Then five. What is it like to walk the halls? What is it like to do business with your company? How could it be better? How could it be easier?
  2. Think big. Then think bigger. According to Elkins, “You can’t think big enough because the way technology moves—what we thought was really big five years ago is nothing today.” Rather than ask yourself how you and your team can change your business, ask yourself: How can we change the industry? How can we change consumers’ lives?
  3. Share it with the C-Suite. Developing your own business vision can be hard. Sharing it can be even harder. But by soliciting feedback from your fellow executives, you might find some interesting things happen. Dialogues might get sparked. Assumptions might get questioned. And people might even agree with your vision.
  4. Do it all over again next month. While revisiting your business vision every week can be difficult for many of us, reviewing it monthly is a good starting point. Every quarter is a must. Take time to revise your thinking. Acknowledge how the market has changed and respond accordingly. And then do the one-, three-, five-year exercise again.

Most of all, give yourself permission to be wrong. Taking time to develop your own business vision can help you identify areas of the business that you thought you knew, but didn’t. If you uncover a gap, go out and learn that discipline. If you get something wrong, find out why. If you see something interesting that others don’t, figure out how the organization might capitalize on it.

And whatever you do, don’t forget to think big.


312-WeekCIO is one of the topics covered by “The Enterprisers Project.” Here we’re discussing how enterprising CIOs can make a more positive impact on their organization during the average six-year (312-week) tenure of today’s CIOs. Learn more about The Enterprisers Project, and join the discussion with CIO magazine at The Enterprising CIO.

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