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How to Become a Triple Threat in the Boardroom

In the high-speed world of business technology, CIOs need to be more dynamic than ever. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of role models, no matter how unconventional they may seem.


LeBron James would make a great CIO. He’s the NBA’s leading all-time scorer, can play all five positions, and dominate on both ends. He’s a true triple threat and, as we would have it, the perfect example of what it takes to become a stand-out leader.

Business technologists take note.

In many ways, the boardroom is no different from the basketball court. It’s a competitive environment where you need to show you can score, assist and defend. Specialists have a role, but versatility is the real name of the game.

Some CIOs excel at business growth, others at streamlining and consolidation. Some technologists can carve out fresh revenue streams, and others can shut down new attack vectors. These are just games inside the game. Are you working on being a role player or becoming a talisman?

Here are three ways the CIO can become a true triple threat in the boardroom. Here’s how you take ownership of the game and lead the way:

Position: Three and D

Gameplan: Contain the primary threats and keep the scoreboard ticking over

With the increasing focus on digital transformation in recent years, the technology landscape has become highly complex and the CIO is held responsible for managing and protecting all of it – assets, people, and processes. The cost to manage everything keeps increasing while the attack surface continues to grow.

Having a balanced line of defense and offense is critical, which means right-sizing the tech stack and keeping everything simple and streamlined. Whether you’re effective at this or not will show up in the box score column marked “TCO” (total cost of ownership).

Out there, effective leaders will have a go-to play to achieve this – large-scale automation. This means making sure your IT and Security functions are working in concert with the business’s needs. Are they acting as facilitators or blockers? Are they boosting productivity for users or disrupting workflows? Are they protecting the perimeter, or are the cyber threats getting through in greater frequency?

[Read also: What is security automation?]

Position: Primary ballhandler

Gameplan: Take care of the ball and make your teammates better

Creating value for the enterprise and driving P&L performance are the table stakes here. To do this you’re going to need to show that you can make the players around you better. After all, most major technology investments are made in support of operational business functions.

Through the stewardship and management of the technology used by each part of the business, the CIO can impact business outcomes and increase investment leverage. But technology is not just about IT.

Increasingly, CIOs are driving value in manufacturing and industrial technology, and in a world where everything’s connected, embedded product technology is a new frontier for the CIO, where somebody needs to help manage what everything is connected to.

Position: Lockdown Defender

Gameplan: Protect the paint and close out on perimeter threats

Being a regulatory compliance powerhouse is important to the Board of Directors and shareholders. Because technology features so centrally in regulatory compliance requirements, the CIO is uniquely positioned to help fulfill fiduciary obligations and keep corporate officers out of jail.

From the CEO’s and CFO’s perspective, it’s not a question of “if” the company will achieve regulatory compliance. It must. The predicament is: “At what cost to do so?”. How many resources are consumed that could be otherwise employed? Much of the risk being managed and the regulatory burden surrounding it is technology related. That’s why the CIO is so pivotal.

By providing timely and exhaustive visibility to what is going on in the estate, employing proactive cyber protection measures, and leading comprehensive responses to incidents, the CIO plays a critical role in helping “Coach” fulfill one of his/her main responsibilities – be difficult to beat.

When you consider how many ways the CIO sees and touches the enterprise, the LeBron analogy I’ve introduced here might not seem so far-fetched or remote. Today’s senior business execs need to be a true triple threat – whether they come from a technology background or not. The MVPs of tomorrow’s enterprises will augment their natural talents with developed skillsets, strategies, and experiences. They will impact the game in multiple ways.

What aspect of your game are you working on right now?

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Tom Molden

Tom Molden is the CIO of Global Executive Engagement at Tanium. He has over 30 years of leadership experience in technology, mainly in manufacturing and high-tech industries. Tom has deep knowledge of how large enterprises and manufacturing organizations operate.

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