CIO: The Master Communicator

The CIO’s Essential Skill

As the top technology executive in an organization, the CIO needs to communicate effectively with the executive staff to ensure alignment of technology strategy with overall business strategy.

I’ll frequently state that I can tell the maturity of the marketing department in an organization by one key word: digital. For example, if a marketing department states that they need a digital marketer, I automatically know that the marketing department is not up-with-the-times. Digital-Marketing is Marketing now and businesses can’t live without it.

Similarly, when a mid-sized+ business states that they don’t need a CIO, I know that they’re not keeping up with the times. The CIO, in my opinion, will be a critical position in the decade. Most CEO’s don’t know how to speak tech, and tech is so fundamental in any business that not having a CIO shows me the maturity of the executive staff.

The ones that do have a CIO understand the importance of technology within the business, not just for support but for adding value. For the CIO to be an effective contributor, he or she needs to be an exemplary communicator. You’ll have a difficult time pushing any type of strategy without proper tech-to-business and vice-versa communication standard. Let’s take a look into a few areas where the CIO’s communication shines:

Strategic Planning

The CIO needs to work with the executive staff to develop and communicate the technology strategy for the organization. This includes identifying key technology initiatives, assessing the technology landscape, and determining the technology investments required to support the business objectives.

It’s not enough to develop an IT strategy. The CIO needs to show how the IT strategy fits the corporate strategy and explain that to the executive staff.


The CIO needs to work with the executive staff to establish and communicate the IT budget for the organization. This includes identifying and prioritizing IT investments, communicating the costs and benefits of technology initiatives, and ensuring that IT spending aligns with the overall business strategy.

Being able to communicate why the budget is as large as it is comes in handy when getting questioned.

Risk Management

The CIO needs to communicate with the executive staff about IT risks and vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate those risks. This includes identifying potential security breaches, assessing the impact of disruptions, and developing disaster recovery plans.

Performance management

How does the CIO communicate the performance of the IT organization and its impact on the business? This includes establishing performance metrics, reporting on performance against targets, and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Vendor Management

There needs to be communication related to the selection and management of IT vendors. This includes identifying potential vendors, negotiating contracts, and managing vendor relationships to ensure that they align with the overall business strategy.


An often underrated and underdeveloped department. Innovation is about emerging technology trends and opportunities for innovation. This includes identifying new technologies, assessing their potential impact on the business, and developing strategies to leverage them. The CIO needs to show the benefit of having an innovation team on-staff.

Change Management

This one will bite an organization hard. If the CIO does not know how to communicate about changes to IT systems, processes, and infrastructure, get ready for disaster. This includes managing the impact of changes on the business, communicating changes to stakeholders, and ensuring that the changes align with the overall business strategy.


The CIO needs to effectively speak about IT compliance requirements and strategies to ensure that the organization is meeting these requirements. This includes staying up-to-date on regulatory changes, assessing the organization’s compliance risks, and implementing strategies to mitigate those risks.

Talent Management

Need additional IT staff? Why? The CIO needs to translate those technical requirements so that the executive staff understands the importance of the roles proposed. This includes identifying skills gaps, developing training and development programs, and recruiting and retaining top IT talent.

Business Continuity

What about business continuity planning and disaster recovery? This includes assessing the organization’s ability to respond to IT disruptions, developing disaster recovery plans, and testing those plans to ensure they are effective.

What I’ve personally found is that business continuity efforts are reactive in most businesses. Why plan for disaster? How much money and effort will that cost? We don’t have time for that. Translating impact to dollars is the CIO’s number 1 skill.

By communicating effectively with the executive staff on these and other topics, the CIO can ensure that the technology strategy aligns with the overall business strategy and that technology investments support the goals of the organization. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication in the CIO role.


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