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I came across a video recently that hinted toward the topic of strategic thinking in information technology. The video is an interview with CIO Dr. Mansur Hasib at the World Health Care Congress, and Dr. Hasib makes a point that can apply to all sectors of business, not just healthcare. He argues that too often CIO’s report to the financial or operations executives, when they should be reporting to the CEO. His reasoning is simple, The CEO’s role is strategic planning, and an IT department’s role should be the strategic implementation of technology.

Putting IT in the Lead

CIO Magazine’s State of the CIO report from 2015 shows that 44% of CIO’s do actually report to their CEO, but that means there are still 56% that don’t. Of the 56% that don’t report to the CEO, majority of them report to the CFO.

The CFO’s job is to minimize the financial risks to a business and maintain its costs. All too often when a CFO looks at IT systems and staff, they just see potential costs. While yes, IT systems and teams do come at a cost, when IT is used correctly it is a serious business investment. If you plant the seed for your business and nurture it, there’s no telling where we will be in 5 years. Whether it’s a new online ordering system, a real time collaboration tool for offices on different coasts, or a digital phone system to replace an old analog phone network, each business has countless potential IT investments.

Internal Structure Can Affect Strategic Thinking

A good CIO, and any good IT professional, thinks strategically, in the same way that the CEO must. In the business world, IT should only be judged on how well it achieves that businesses goals. Does it widen the market? Does it help the company retain customers? A good CIO always needs to know and understand more than just technology, they need to understand the whole business, and industry, to make these kind of assessments.

Having an IT department that reports to a CEO can see itself as innovative and being an actual leader within the business. This thought process can offer so many benefits. Strategic thinking means thinking and acting proactively in all directions, throughout the whole business. An IT team that’s fully invested in the business’ goals, engaged in the business’s long term health, and reaching out to other teams and customers can lead to serious long term profits.