Michael Krigsman is an industry analyst and an expert on market innovation and disruption. He’s spoken on panels across that world and interviewed the world's top innovators on his show, CXOTalk. In this episode, Michael describes the changing IT landscape, and why it’s necessary for CIOs to have a deep understanding of technology. He emphasizes the importance of a partnership between the CIO and other C-suite leaders, as well as understanding the needs of your business’ stakeholders. Michael also gets into communicating with the board, including how to understand what the board is seeking from you.
Today’s technology environment evolves quickly, but fluency in tech advancements may not be enough. Michael Krigsman has advice for how to keep up. CIOs and technology leaders need to understand the impact of technology on their companies, while also honing business and communication skills.
In this episode, Michael Krigsman, industry analyst and publisher of CXOTalk, describes the changing IT landscape. He tells us why CIOs need to have a deep understanding of technology and a relationship with IT. He gets into the importance of partnerships between the CIO and other C-suite leaders. Michael also describes communicating with the board, how to decipher what they’re seeking from their company, and understanding the needs of business stakeholders.
02:00 The role of CIO as a business leader
04:20 Using IT to support the business
07:30 Getting what we need from technology
09:00 Innovating for the future as CIO
14:45 The secret power of IT
16:45 Developing crucial CIO skills
19:30 How the pandemic shifted the CIO’s reputation
21:00 Creating consensus within your organization
23:00 Preparing for a period of uncertainty
25:00 How to work effectively with boards
28:00 Getting on the same page as stakeholders
Michael Krigsman on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mkrigsman/
CIO Exchange on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmwcioexchange
Yadin Porter de León on Twitter: https://twitter.com/porterdeleon
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0:00:01.5 Michael Krigsman: These days technology leadership means being a business person, first and foremost, having expertise in the technology, and especially the impact of technology on the business.
0:00:20.8 Yadin Porter De Leon: Welcome to the CIO Exchange Podcast, where we talk about what's working, what's not, and what's next. I'm Yadin Porter de Leon? Today's technology environment evolves quickly, and it could be hard to keep up. Technology leaders need to understand the impact of technology on their business, but they also need to master business and communication skills. In today's episode, I speak with Michael Krigsman, industry analyst and publisher of the show CXOTalk. Michael describes what CIO success should look like. He lays out the essential skills of technology leaders today, and he argues that it's not enough to be a business leader with a knack for tech. To be a great leader, you have to dive deep into all aspects of your company. Michael, a lot has changed over the years. That's to put it mildly, and while we don't wanna sort of go over a lot of the well-trodden tropics, and I think have dominated a lot of the conversation, I think there's some new ones, macroeconomic, macro-political, other macro trends that have really shifted the landscape, and it's changed the way that technology leaders and technology is advancing companies, is changing the way that people are making connections, companies are developing relationships. Where do you see the responsibility of technology leaders today versus what it's been, let's say, in the last five to 10 years? Where is that big shift?
0:01:43.5 Michael Krigsman: Ever increasingly, it's essential for technologies to be business people. Technology is very easy compared to the judgment decisions that a business leader has to make regarding investment, regarding people, attracting high-quality talent, retaining that talent, supporting peers and stakeholders inside the organization and outside the company. For a long time, we've been talking about the CIO as a business leader, nothing has changed as far as that imperative.
0:02:24.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: I know those are key, those are... It's interesting to see the things that haven't changed and almost more has been asked of CIOs and CTOs and other "technology leaders," but what we're seeing is, and when I say we, we've had these events, we've had CIO summits where we bring 100 technology leaders from all the largest brands in the world together, and we have these conversations, and they say, nothing's really changed fundamentally. The CIO is really on the hook for making critical strategic business decisions. There's a divide and conquer. Yes, it's under your purview to address certain things and to be on the hook for certain things and have certain points of view and certain skill sets, but there's almost now a shared responsibility.
0:03:00.1 Yadin Porter De Leon: Now the CFO or the CMO and others who are in the executive suite are also on the hook for technology decisions and technology strategy. It's just that the CIO might be leading that more and also the executives and the board of directors are seeing the efficacy of technology investments. Things they didn't understand before, they're understanding better, the results of which are showing tremendous, tremendous results, especially given certain supply chain constraints and constraints with regards to where people can work, when they can work there, how they can work there. As you're pointing out, Michael, the big shift may not be in the, what has been the role of that CIO, that technology leader, and has been what has been the relationship shift. Do you think that's a good way to say? Do you think it's a relationship with the CIO in the organization, and that's what the big shift is?
0:03:46.5 Michael Krigsman: Well, a lot has changed outside of IT. As you just described, the CFO is now an expert in technology, the CMO is an expert in technology. So it raises a question as to what is the rightful place of the CIO and where the CIO can add the most value. Since you have a sophisticated set of stakeholders who understand technology, it is incumbent on the CIO to identify those spots where IT can really support finance or support marketing beyond being just a service provider for technology integration, say. And the only way to make that happen is for the CIO to really have a deep understanding of the finance needs and then understand and be able to figure out the intersection points, how can we in IT support those folks? How can we give them something that they can't do themselves? 'Cause otherwise, why do they need us?
0:04:52.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: Yeah, I know, and I think there's a long running conversation of the CIO needs to do more, the CIO needs to be a business person. They need to understand all these different lines of business, and I think that's happening, I think that the engagement, the entrenchment is happening. They're having that deep relationship and what I think what's shifting more in some of the conversation is that they're being invited into more conversations, they're invited earlier into those conversations, and they're seeing the capability and the opportunity to make the impact that you're talking about, Michael. Where am I gonna make the best and most impact? Where is the business going to benefit the most from a revenue perspective, from an efficiency, from an agility perspective, from a time-to-market perspective based on my input, my capabilities and my leadership? And I'm not talking at a bits and bytes level. I'm talking at a people level of how can I direct resources that are within my organization so that I can help accomplish what you're talking about? With all of the changes that we have seen, with all of the efficacy of technology that we've witnessed, what still hasn't changed? What is still in the way of a lot of these technology leaders when they're trying to accomplish this?
0:05:52.0 Michael Krigsman: Look, you need to have a well-organized machine inside IT. While you are being that business partner, IT still has to execute, password resets need to happen, tech support, the help desk.
0:06:05.5 Yadin Porter De Leon: The Wi-Fi has always gotta stay up. I always tell our CIO... They say, "No one ever says anything nice to the CIO unless something goes wrong." And I will email our CIO and I'll tell him, "You know what, the Wi-Fi is fantastic. Thank you. Keep doing a great job," which is just tongue in cheek for saying, "Hey, look, I'm appreciating you before something goes wrong." But you're right, those things still need to happen. You still have to keep them going, but on top of that, I mean, what else are they asked to do that they maybe even not be able to do because of certain constraints?
0:06:33.4 Michael Krigsman: The CIO is continuously asked to innovate, be a driver of innovation, and at the same time keep costs contained, cut costs. This means the CIO needs to be thinking out of the box. For example, low-code no-code tool, citizen developers is a great way to help offload IT activities into the body of users who really know what they need themselves. So gone are the days of the CIO saying, "No, you can't build technology." No, we need to turn that around and say, "We want you to build technology." Now we're going to establish the standards of security, of integration, things like that, because those are essential corporate-wide, enterprise-wide functions, but let's do everything in our power to make it easier for folks in the business, finance, accounting, marketing, whatever it might be, sales, to make it easier for them to get what they need from technology as quickly and as simply as possible for them.
0:07:45.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: Yeah, no. I think you bring up a good point there because self-service and enablement are a really big part of that, and I think to scale-out that innovation because like you'd mentioned too, and this is something that we've talked about over and over again. It's like you keep hearing all these headlines, you see the articles, you see the videos. CIOs need to innovate, we need to innovate, and CIOs are getting a little bit tired of saying, "Okay, yes, there's lots of different ways to innovate, and there's all this expectation of innovation, but it's not just on our shoulders to innovate. We have to innovate as an organization." If you want me to create a system that's just gonna support the same old processes and ways of doing things as a marketing organization or as a sales organization, there's no innovation there. It's not happening. If you just wanna decrease the amount of time that you can do that same manual process, or just change it from a button instead of writing it on a piece of paper, there's not innovation there.
0:08:36.6 Michael Krigsman: You have just described efficiency. "Let's do the thing we're doing only let's make it 10% faster or let's cut 10% cost." It doesn't change how we do business, but it's nice for the bean counters. But that brings up a really important point, which is the CIO today should be joined at the hip to the CFO, especially if the CFO is one of this new breed of chief financial officers, who's focused not just on being a bean counter, but really focused on, "How do we enable innovation inside the organization from a funding, from an investment standpoint?" Because the most innovative CIOs recognize that this innovation piece is essential to the future of the business, and definitely essential for the strength of, and the vibrancy of IT, and frankly, their own role, but pair that with the CFO who also recognizes this innovation imperative, and now you have a very powerful partnership, CIO and CFO working together.
0:09:48.2 Yadin Porter De Leon: Yeah, and I think it's interesting. There's been some organizations actually the CIO rolls up into the CFO. I don't necessarily think that that's the right way to do it. I think that the relationship between those two, and because of... I think you brought a really good point because that a lot of the money that's spent are investments. If you're spending money in a new technology, whether that's a security, or security system, or whether it's new infrastructure, whether it's efficiency, or agility, or whatever you're going for, that is an investment. And some CIOs that I talk to talk about how they really see their role more as a venture capitalist of they're taking money from the company and they say, "We're gonna invest it in these projects, and these projects are gonna have X amount of return. And so I'm gonna put money here, I'm gonna put money here, and put money here."
0:10:30.7 Yadin Porter De Leon: So this person really needs to be able to speak the language of finance, because they need to say, "This is the ROI on this, and I'm gonna tell you, I'm gonna invest in not for next quarter or the next two quarters, I'm gonna invest for the next five years. My investments are gonna have five-year pay-off, a 10-year pay horizon." And then they need to convince the CFO or the board of directors, or whoever they're talking to, they need to be able to tell the story in a way that convinces them that that is that "The value of this investment is over the longer-term, and we're not gonna be short-term transactional because that is then going to hinder our ability to be able to compete in the market if we're just looking for the short-term gains. Other company is gonna make those long-term investments and then beat us three, four, five, six years out because they're not thinking long-term." They've gotta be able to speak in that language of the CFO and in the language of the technology leader as well.
0:11:17.4 Michael Krigsman: And if you're a CIO, that's what you should be doing, but it reinforces the importance of having that partnership with the CFO so that you can balance the short-term horizon that the market expects from you and the margins and so forth. Balance that against the need to make long-term technology and strategic investments that will pay off for the organization. So yeah, if you're a CIO and you're not doing this, then the question I ask is why? What are you doing?
0:11:53.4 Yadin Porter De Leon: When I'm talking to technology leaders, there's constraints put upon them. "We need to be able to build this, or this data center lease is running out. We need to build another data center. Either we build out a whole new one somewhere else, or we go to the Cloud, or we do something different than just kind of cut and paste a new data center in a new area because we've gotta build another data center, 'cause this one's running out." And the successful ones talk about how they do that. They tell stories, they show pictures, they visualize, they talk in the language of the business of, "Here is the benefit, here's gonna be the benefit of that longer-term investment. It may not be... Don't look at it as cost savings. Look at it as investing in the business, and here's the way that it's gonna pay off. It's gonna pay off in agility. We're gonna be able to... If we're a financial services company, we're gonna be able to leverage this new change in regulation to be able to bring this product to market within one quarter instead of three years."
0:12:44.2 Yadin Porter De Leon: And that then becomes that aha moment, where the board says, oh, and then there's a huge, huge market advantage now to that. Now I'm looking at this as a market advantage investment instead of a cost center, which of course has always been that duality, and I know CIOs would be rolling their eyes and going, "Well, we're not cost centers anymore. We have to look at ourselves as investments," but that's true, but they're real constraints. Not everyone is able to innovate and act like a venture capitalist and deploy money in that way with their resources, but they just don't... They're not an organization that understands it.
0:13:13.2 Michael Krigsman: How is this different from a business person in any other function of the company? There are constraints on every business leader. Is IT different in some way?
0:13:24.5 Yadin Porter De Leon: No, I think that's a good... I think that's a good point to bring up. Some of the conversation gets fragmented because of, well, the CIO is over here, and the CIO needs to get a seat at the table, or they need to integrate more with the organization. But like you said, there's just different maturities of the relationship of different leaders and different functions with organizations throughout time, and that CIO is on their own journey of the relationship they have with the organization. And the last three, four years has really shifted that relationship on that journey and it's accelerated the journey in some ways. How is that really different? I like to think about those CIOs who are listening to this and they're thinking, "Well, why is my role any different than any of the other C-level or C-suite people? I have constraints. They have constraints." What makes the CIO different? They have an opportunity for the investments that they make have a different impact on the business in different ways, and developing an understanding of what that is for themselves, they're keenly aware, but then communicating that to the rest of the organization. And give me a sense from your perspective, Michael, is there a way that they need to differentiate how they're articulating their investments versus another person in the C-Suite?
0:14:24.1 Michael Krigsman: IT suffers from historical baggage.
0:14:28.8 Yadin Porter De Leon: Yeah, that's putting it mildly.
0:14:31.1 Michael Krigsman: Well, historically, IT was viewed as this kind of alien field and we business people we don't really understand or know what the magic they do. That's history. As we discussed earlier today, everybody knows technology. If you're in accounting, you better know technology. If you're in marketing, technology and data are the core of what you're doing, but IT still suffers from that historical baggage, but there's two parts to that. Number one is the perception among business people of, "Oh, well, she's the tech person, or he's the tech guy," kind of diminishing them. "Well, that's what they know. They're just tech." So you have that perception that does still persist in some quarters, but you also have the capability for the CIO to either be a technologist or to be able to transcend the technology and be a business leader because they're not the same. Not all CIOs are business leaders, and not all CIOs possess the skills, the communication skills, the financial finance skills, the marketing skills that are needed in order to be a genuine peer among C-suite stakeholders.
0:15:57.7 Yadin Porter De Leon: Does every CIO need to really do that though? And then that's some of the questions too. Some feel like they're a little outside of their lane when they're really digging deep into, "Well, what does the marketing organization do and how much self-service do I give that marketing organization versus what are the real differentiating projects that I can work on that are unique to our business that would actually justify us not just grabbing something, some SaaS product off the shelf?"
0:16:20.1 Michael Krigsman: Well, can I share a hard truth?
0:16:23.2 Yadin Porter De Leon: Feel free to, Michael. Yes, I would love to... I'd love to hear the hard truth.
0:16:25.9 Michael Krigsman: The hard truth is modern CIOs need to develop these skills. Think about it this way, if you're a marketer, your stock and trade is understanding all aspects. If you're a CMO, your stock and trade is understanding all aspects of marketing, whether it's demand gen, whether it's branding, whatever the case may be. If you're a CFO, your stock and trade is understanding all aspects of strategic investment and finance and accounting, and yes, of course, you have your team of folks who can dig into the details. If you're a CIO, your stock and trade is understanding the needs of your business stakeholders so that you can serve the company as a whole, not just with technology, but from a business perspective. And so the hard truth is if it's beyond your experience and your organization is growing and is vibrant, you better learn because if you don't, you will devolve into CIO irrelevancy, and that's a bad place to be.
0:17:33.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: It's tough, and that doesn't service you or doesn't serve the stakeholders and doesn't serve the organization. It's just like if people in marketing don't really wanna know what sales people do 'cause they don't understand sales, that can make you absolutely irrelevant. You have to understand what your efforts do and how they connect and add value to the other parts that are directly connected to the outcomes that you produce. So same thing, the problem is that the CIO has to understand everyone in the business, how they do their thing, how they can impact, and I think that's absolutely critical. One thing I wanna pivot on just a little bit too in the conversation is we've talked a lot about, historically, how the technology leaders have evolved, need to evolve, and the skills they have to attain. There's new things happening right now. There's things that technology leaders haven't faced in their careers. There's black swan events that are absolutely brand new for this generation that have just never been faced before, and we've had recessions, we've had other issues, but we're heading into economic crisis. We've just had a massive global health crisis.
0:18:31.1 Yadin Porter De Leon: There are weather events that are becoming more severe, that are affecting supply chains, that are affecting people's ability to work in centrally offices, that are affecting the amount of money that executives have right now to invest in these projects. So it's even more of do more with less situation. What are you seeing the shifts in the forward-looking strategic approach, tactical approaches from technology leaders with the face of just a lot of uncertainty, more uncertainty than I think any of us have experienced in any line of business?
0:19:01.9 Michael Krigsman: So I just gave you a hard truth. Now let me share the greatness of IT, the greatness of the CIO opportunity right now.
0:19:11.4 Yadin Porter De Leon: This is gonna be good, I can tell.
0:19:14.5 Michael Krigsman: The pandemic forced many organizations, so many organizations to literally close up shop on a Friday and on Monday, "We're not going into the office anymore." That was very, very hard, and you know who they called upon to do that? The CIO to produce the miracle. The CIO produced the miracle. And so that raised the profile of the CIO. That made so many people that viewed, "Oh, that's the tech lady, or that's the tech guy," view these folks as the superhero, and so the wind is at their back. If you're a CIO today, the wind is at your back because your profile has been raised, so the real question is, can you fill those shoes? Your profile has been raised. Are you ready to meet the challenge? And so the challenge now is, sure, we're in this period of great uncertainty. We don't know will we be in a recession in six months, or is inflation coming down and the stock market is gonna boom, and it's gonna be back to the days before the pandemic? We have no idea.
0:20:29.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: And how do you plan a resilient organization for that? I guess you have to have something that can do whatever, whatever needs to be done. What's the next CIO miracle, I guess is what we're asking.
0:20:37.1 Michael Krigsman: The next CIO miracle is actually to be having this discussion with your peers. We're not going to individually figure this out on our own. There needs to be a consensus-driven response inside any organization, and we need to be part of that because we need the best minds in the company, the best leaders in the company to be putting our heads together and thinking this through. So the strategy for the CIO is, yeah, you wanna be the hero, but you have to also know when to be a team player. Be sure that you are part of these conversations, because they're definitely taking place. Be part of the conversation and contribute appropriately, not as merely a technologist, but as a seasoned business person who possesses the judgment and the balance and the measured thinking to explore the different scenarios and what if this and what if that. And since we know this today, therefore we have to do that because we have constraints, the lease on this data center is coming up. It doesn't matter what's happening with the economy. We have no choice. We have to invest there, but we should keep our powder dry in this other area that's relating to that project, for example.
0:21:56.5 Yadin Porter De Leon: Edison, I think said something like, "I didn't fail" I don't know, 100 times or 1000 times or something. "I just figured out 1000 different ways not to make a light bulb and all I needed was one way to make a light bulb." And I think there's a fear with technology leaders and leaders kind of across the board is, there's a thousand different ways for them to fail. And it's not like Edison trying to produce the light bulb. If they invest on three, four, five, six, seven bad projects that don't pan out, then also now they're on the hook. That's affecting their ability then to move other projects forward. And so how are you feeling like CIOs can still continue even under these times of uncertainty and constraints, continue to build an environment or maintain an environment where they can experiment, where they can do things that may not necessarily work out, but are in the best interest of the business for the long-term without having the issue of credibility or of future investments?
0:22:48.2 Michael Krigsman: Look, we are in this period of uncertainty right now. Depending on the financial strength of your organization, this may not be the time to take on these broadly experimental projects. Right now is more of a time for retrenchment. We spoke about efficiency and innovation earlier. Right now, I'd be really looking at efficiency. I'd wanna save money. At the same time, I'd be looking strategically regardless of the economy, where is the company going? And so where do we need to continue making investments? But right now, let's make incremental investments that are more modest because there is this uncertainty. We're not sure about the resources that we're going to have available to us in six months or a year. So let's take a conservative approach, be efficient, but at the same time, maintain full awareness that efficiency does not help us achieve our strategic or innovation goals. And so we're going to keep our fingers in those pies as well, but in a measured way.
0:24:01.5 Yadin Porter De Leon: Yeah. And so I think that's a good point to sort of shift to a section I like to call, Take it to the Board.
0:24:06.6 Speaker 3: In short, ladies and gentlemen of the board, costs are down, revenue are up, and our stock has never been higher.
0:24:12.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: If a CIO is working with the staff and has to sort of create consensus and then take one story or a series of asks to the board, what's that board level conversation that the CIO should be trying to promote? Within that framework, you're talking about... Michael, you're talking about efficiency, you're talking about incremental investments, but still with your eyes on long-term strategic advantage within the marketplace for their business. Is that that board-level story that they should be telling and how do you feel like that would be effective way to tell that board-level story?
0:24:46.7 Michael Krigsman: As I have spoken extensively with board members and with folks that advice CIOs on how to work effectively with boards and how to become board members, there's a very straightforward theme that has emerged, and that is be crystal clear, be simple, be straightforward, respond to what the board is looking for, and do it in language that is not techy jargon, but that directly addresses the business concerns and the strategy concerns that the board is focused on. That's how to go about doing it. And that's so much more difficult to do than to say because simplicity is hard. To be simple requires a profound understanding of what you're trying to communicate, and to do that well, it requires really understanding what the folks on the other side, meaning what your board is seeking from you. So put the work in to boil it down, keep it short, keep it straightforward, keep it simple, and then be able to back it up with the facts, the figures. Be sure you have the conversation with your CFO before the board meeting so when they start questioning you about the investment and the time horizon and the return and the risk, that you have all of those details at your finger tips, and if they drill in too deeply, say, "Okay, let me go back and get that information." But really, you wanna have that information and you wanna have the data to back it up. If you can do all that, you're gonna make a really good pitch.
0:26:37.5 Yadin Porter De Leon: Nice. And I probably should underscore that the idea of consensus as well, and when you're building the story, you're getting the facts and figures, you gotta have the support of all the different lines of business where you're gonna have those information inputs from, and have the buy-in for all of them. So if anyone's going around and surveying and taking your story around and asking the CFO, or asking the CEO, or asking the CMO, and say, "What do you think about this plan?" They're like, "Oh yeah, absolutely." And they're bought in 100%. I feel like that really needs to be underscored.
0:27:01.2 Michael Krigsman: I'm glad you brought that up, Yadin. It's a really important point. A business leader cannot be a lone gun, a loose canon sort of spouting off ideas. Ideas are easy, right? Ideas it's like, I have a dozen ideas a minute. Execution, getting it done, getting the alignment with other peers, both in terms of understanding what they need, where are their contributions to this, but also their judgment and their opinion and advice. "Yeah, this plan sounds good, but try tweaking it in this particular way because we've had some trouble with that in the past."
0:27:43.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: Yeah. I like the way you frame that too 'cause there was this one CIO I was talking to, and he put it really well. He's a CIO of a large healthcare organization, and he put it this way. He said, "Ideas are celebrated, but execution is worshipped." And I think that's what you're talking about.
0:27:56.8 Michael Krigsman: Without a doubt. Having the idea is great, but getting on the same page with the stakeholders so that they agree and you get the best thinking of all of the participants, of all of the stakeholders, that's another way of saying consensus.
0:28:11.0 Yadin Porter De Leon: Nice.
0:28:13.4 Michael Krigsman: Getting the best thinking and it means that you as the CIO are going to be offering the board 'cause that's what we were talking about, you're gonna be offering the board your best thinking as a result, and you'll have tested those ideas before you speak with the board, and they start asking you questions that you can't answer, or pointing out gaps and holes that just will make you feel embarrassed and kind of cringe. You don't want that. So you share the idea among your peers, you get the criticism ahead of time, so that when you walk into that board meeting, it's iron-clad, it's bulletproof.
0:28:45.5 Yadin Porter De Leon: Nice. Well, Michael, this has been a fascinating conversation, and I really appreciate you joining. Where can people find out more about you, or can they see what you're working on, reach out to you on social? Where can they connect with you?
0:28:57.0 Michael Krigsman: Well, just go to cxotalk.com. We have live shows. Go check it out. We have a podcast, participate.
0:29:01.7 Yadin Porter De Leon: Excellent. Well, Michael, I appreciate you joining the CIO Exchange Podcast.
0:29:06.6 Michael Krigsman: Thank you, Yadin. It's just an honor to be with you.
0:29:10.1 Yadin Porter De Leon: Thank you for listening to this latest episode. Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. And for more insights from technology leaders as well as global research on key topics, visit vmware.com/cio.