CIO 2.x: Champion for SaaS, advocate for business


Cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) have forever changed how business solutions are consumed. Throughout the first decade of this century, business teams adopted SaaS at a rapid-fire pace, often bypassing their IT counterparts altogether. Line of business (LoB) buyers representing marketing, supply chain, procurement, sales and other functions were virtually running their own IT shop.

But this dynamic is shifting once again. IT leadership is now serving an essential role in SaaS adoption strategy, and for all the right reasons. Business teams are embracing their IT counterparts with open arms. What’s going on here?

Simply put, the office of the CIO is far more market-focused than ever. Information technology and business executives share a mission to serve and delight the customer more effectively. Both stakeholders now speak a common language.

So what does CIO 2.x look like? A few patterns have surfaced from the recent SaaS roundtable discussions I hosted with IBM client executives. One observation is that IT leadership is becoming a true advocate for business transformation versus an inhibitor to change. IT-driven initiatives such as “Cloud First” are a great example of what this type of bold transformation looks like. “Cloud First” is a high stakes, high value proposition that must be evangelized and nurtured through IT leadership.

Another pattern I observed is CIO 2.x emerging as a champion for market leadership versus an enabler for market parity. Not only are both teams focused on serving the customer better, but all parties are painfully aware of the intense competitive and market pressures at play. CIO-driven strategies such as embedding IT staff directly within business teams surfaced in my recent CIO roundtable interactions. This simple, yet effective approach better aligns stakeholders and accelerates speed to market for the business

A third characteristic of the rebooted CIO is a role as evangelist for information mastery versus a steward for data policy. Data without strategy can serve the business only so well. My recent conversations with IT leaders have focused on information strategy on a higher-order. The many standalone SaaS adoptions throughout the last decade now offer a big opportunity for CIO 2.x to connect the dots – linking transactional with behavioral data, which can serve the business in truly transformational ways.

The shift to cloud and SaaS presents exciting opportunities for the CIO to shape corporate strategy in enduring, meaningful ways. IT leadership hasn’t simply embraced cloud to just stay relevant; rather she has emerged as an essential champion for SaaS and advocate for her business counterparts. To summarize, I observe CIO 2.x behavior as:

  • An advocate for business transformation versus an inhibitor to change
  • A champion for market leadership versus an enabler for market parity
  • An evangelist for information mastery versus a steward for data policy

The stage is set, and both IT and business counterparts are aligned better than ever. Let the fun times begin.

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Armen Najarian

About Armen Najarian

Armen leads the go-to-market strategy for the IBM Cloud category of 100+ Software as a Service solutions. Previously, he was VP of Corporate Marketing at DemandTec -- The Collaborative Analytics Cloud for Retail & CPG – which was acquired by IBM in early 2012. Armen was part of the startup team at Velosel, a pioneer in cloud-based Master Data Management solutions, prior to being acquired by TIBCO. Earlier in his career, he held product, brand, and digital marketing roles with ConAgra Foods, Avery Dennison, and Gateway. He lives in the heart of Silicon Valley with his wife and two young children and tweets frequently at @armennajarian.
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