Last week, I recapped my five key insights from the inaugural TBM Conference. We had many great discussions with the 400+ senior IT leaders there, and one topic of many was the evolution of the CIO role: As the CMO and lines of business increasingly drive technology decisions, is the CIO becoming less relevant? 

ServiceNow CEO Frank Slootman and Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta see the answer as a double-edged sword: the CIO role is becoming a more important role, but CIOs today are far more accountable for business performance than before. It’s more demanding, not less demanding, creating a fundamental shift to what we call “New IT.” 

As leaders of the pioneering companies empowering New IT, Frank and Sunny shared some important insights about what makes a successful IT leader today. Essentially, it comes down to quitting some very bad habits (e.g. being techno-centric, being opaque, and building silos) and adopting successful ones. In particular, Frank and Sunny shared three essential habits for today’s IT leaders:

1. Be Service-Oriented

 

IT is going through some fundamental changes. At the forefront of this, the role of the CIO is evolving to become a strategic services provider and a strategic business enabler, said Sunny. This applies principles from the service and infrastructure level to the business management level. “The notion of services is very important. [CIOs must] think from a services orientation.”

According to Frank, being service-oriented creates an opportunity for IT to be the center of excellence. “That's a concept that's really big in IT organizations right now, where [IT leaders] really understand technology so they can help the rest in the enterprise apply it to the domain.” He likened the old perception of IT to a visit to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). Like the DMV, “IT used to be the most miserable experience in the world.” But, as the role of CIO evolves towards delivering excellent service, “the CEO will begin to throw money at you if you’re changing the game,” he said.

2. Be Business-minded

 

More CIOs of the future will come from business backgrounds, rather than technology.  Successful CIOs of the future will no longer just be operations guys, “the ones in short sleeves,” but will drive innovation that changes the business.

The problem, according to Frank, is that business systems on the IT side have been inadequate. “[IT leaders are] so focused on delivering everybody else's system that we neglect our own…We're cobbler's children! The whole notion of ERP for IT, a term that we use a lot…that's what IT needs."

Here, Frank also emphasized why Apptio and ServiceNow work so well together for leaders of New IT. “We [ServiceNow] have a very strong work management orientation, right? I mean we manage work…requests and tasks and projects and instance and change and all this kind of stuff. We have the operational dimension. Apptio has the financial dimension. And they go together.” He later added, “Sunny [Apptio] is part of the 'ERP for IT' promise because it just goes hand in glove as far as we look at it.”

3. Lead the Way, and Be Transparent

 

Frank said he tells CIOs, “You're going to lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way… Because if you're waiting for this to sort of end up in your lap, good things are probably not going to happen.”

Sunny agreed in saying, “We are empowering the CIO. We want CIO to be in charge. We want CIOs to control the conversation, not only for IT but also for business.” The key to leading the conversations is transparency. Sunny added, “To some degree, technology has kind of become a black box. The cost structures are pretty big in a lot of these organizations…It's billions of dollars in technology spent. No other function runs that way, right? Why would you not want transparency into that?”

We often describe this as having fact-based conversations about the investments you’re making. That’s the point of transparency, and it puts CIOs in a trusted, leadership position. “CIOs who are really embracing [transparency] and the IT leaders who are embracing that sort of [business] language, is where we're seeing…technology budgets are even going up. Because all of a sudden the business starts to trust IT. And the language has just totally shifted.”

CIOs who are service-oriented, business-minded, and transparent leaders are ready for New IT; for the elevated role and business demands we’re seeing today.

What do you think about the evolution of the CIO role? Do you agree with Sunny and Frank on some of the key traits? What else would you add? Join the conversation and share your comments below. Or you can respond to me on Twitter: @chrismpick.