COMDEXvirtual: The New CIOs (And How To Sell To Them)

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Spike Lee once made a movie titled "Do the Right Thing." Sounds simple, but for many CIOs and IT managers, just what "the right thing" is may not always be clear.

And yet knowing what's important, what are the right things to focus attention and resources on, can mean the difference between success and failure for a CIO and the business he or she works for, said Niel Nickolaisen, vice president of strategy and innovation at Energy Solutions, Wednesday in a keynote address at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.

For solution providers, understanding the new role of today's CIOs can help close sales, he said.

"This role has changed pretty dramatically over the last few years," he said. "We used to be primarily involved with data processing, but now it's become a much more strategic role." Nickolaisen, who previously served as CIO and head of strategic planning at Headwaters, and before that as CIO at Deseret Book and Franklin Covey, is a noted speaker on the role of the CIO in today's business organizations.

Nickolaisen offered IT executives a plan for succeeding in what he said has become "a fairly high-risk position." The question CIOs must ask themselves is, "What can I do to be indispensable rather than replaceable?"

Finding answers to that very same question is equally critical for IT solution and service providers.

The two goals for a CIO are to become "a strategic enabler for the business" to help a company succeed competitively and "achieve operational excellence" by delivering IT services in a cost-effective way.

The core of Nickolaisen's speech was demonstrating how IT executives can determine what IT and business processes give a company its competitive advantage. These market differentiating processes and the IT that supports them are where CIOs should devote most of their attention because it's what a company must do better than anyone else.

If a business is renowned for its customer service or its rapid shipping, for example, that's where the IT executive's focus should be, Nickolaisen said. "These are the things I do that make me indispensable rather than replaceable," he said.


NEXT: Why 'Mission Critical' Isn't So Critical

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