Over the past decade, the role of CIO has evolved from one of “keeping the lights on” in the data center to strategic, customer-facing engagements like mapping out tech-driven strategies around mobile and social media.
Now, chief information officers are moving beyond the four walls of their own companies. Increasingly, they are being tapped to serve on the corporate boards of their customers, partners, and suppliers.
Earlier this month, wireless infrastructure service provider FTE Networks announced that John Klumpp, CIO at First Southern Bank in Boca Raton, Florida, has been appointed to its board of directors.
“John’s knowledge of and background in the banking and technology industry is very complimentary to FTE’s growth strategy and we look forward to his contributions to our development plans,” said FTE CEO Michael Palleschi, in a statement June 5.
Two days earlier, Infoblox, a developer of network control solutions, announced the appointment of Kaiser Permanente CIO Phil Fasano to its board. Fasano “will be a huge asset for Infoblox, bringing the customer’s perspective into the boardroom,” said Infoblox CEO Robert Thomas, also in a statement.
“Running the largest civilian health record system in the United States, as well as managing a large organization of IT professionals that serve 9.3 million members, gives Phil a deep understanding into the increasing complexity of enterprise networks and how these networks can be effectively managed, secured and automated,” said Thomas.
Meanwhile, former General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda has sat on a number of boards, including at Compuware, Covisint, and Handleman Corporation, and is still sought after for corporate governance roles.
So what’s behind CIOs' increasing attractiveness as board members? Syzgenda summed it up in a recent interview with Forbes.
“The complexity of technology and the complexity of business are increasing. So I think the opportunity for CIOs that really have great business and technology understanding is really going to be important as time goes on.”
Indeed, in 2014 almost every enterprise is in some way an IT company.
Syzgenda’s own GM last month rolled out an offer through which subscribers to its OnStar infotainment and roadside assistance system can get mobile Wi-Fi for $5 per month. LG, meanwhile, introduced a WebOS-enabled smart TV through which consumers can access a vast range of content and services—for additional fees.
The trend will only continue as the Internet of Things takes hold. Information technology will become a competitive advantage (or liability, depending on how it’s played) for virtually every industry.
Companies that add veteran, accomplished CIOs to their boards will have an edge on the competition when it comes to planning, executing, and managing business strategies that, increasingly, will rely heavily on IT for success.