Businesses are increasingly looking to IT leaders as C-suite entrepreneurs who can structure innovative efforts and scale emerging ideas.

In the past, the CIO role revolved around uptime and availability. But now, it’s no longer enough for a CIO to simply run efficient machines. At present, the role is entrenched within the C-suite, where it includes partnering with the business and strategizing around how to transform the business technology value proposition.

In recent years, expectations for CIOs have grown to include delivering business revenue. Retail CIOs first carved out this path by creating omnichannel experiences and fancy product features, like virtual at-home try-on options.

To be clear, the call for CIOs to directly advance revenue extends beyond simply delivering value. In revenue generation mode, CIOs are partnering with business-focused peers to support enterprise strategy and are carefully calculating the value that IT can provide. Such efforts actively advance a company’s capacity to generate cash-flow.

How to become a revenue-generating CIO

1. Know business objectives and assess how IT can advance them. Determine whether IT initiatives will have a direct impact on revenue. If yes, consider bringing those initiatives forward.

CIOs need to prioritize and co-own business outcomes. In so doing, CIOs may wish to leverage business capability mapping, a process for identifying and modeling or depicting how the business operates in order to achieve its objectives.

To illustrate this concept, consider a headphones company whose sales associates typically schedule equipment demos for potential customers. A CIO can use business capability mapping to understand the entire process – the initial sales calls, the demonstrations, the follow-up discussion…etc. This mapping enables a CIO to think beyond discussions of what systems support which processes. Rather, CIOs can then determine which technological developments could change actual business outcomes, such as the number of closed deals.

2. Implement a product-based approach. Rather than owning a traditional project-based IT delivery structure, consider implementing a product-based approach. This means not only worrying about the CRM, but concerning one’s self with the flow of value creation.

Some CIOs are already moving in this direction by adopting agile DevOps software development methods. Such methods emphasize iterative product development and the creation of functions and features that genuinely meet client needs.

But there’s more that could be done. And within a handful of companies, leaders have implemented bonuses for CIOs and for IT staff who prove their ability to deliver revenue growth.

3. Adopt the entrepreneur mindset. As a CIO, can you conceptualize your role in a more expansive way? Get out of your standard lane? Can you think about your responsibilities differently, seeing unmet needs and finding solutions? While the entrepreneurial spirit is natural for some, others need to channel it, learning to put it into practice.

Because CIOs have a broad view of what’s happening across the business, on both functional and geographical levels, CIOs are often well-positioned to serve as entrepreneurs within the C-suite. In turn, CIOs become solutions-based executives.

The approach doesn’t work in every organization. However, in changing colleague’s expectations about what a CIO can accomplish, CIOs may make even more valuable contributions than ever before, and might see great reward.

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