Successful Chief Information Officers Speak the Language of Business: Finance, article in Forbes

October 03, 2012
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In the first article of his “Technovation” column for Forbes, Peter High speaks with Marriott CIO Bruce Hoffmeister and Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby about the importance of IT leaders being able to article value through financial terms- a language everyone in the business can understand.

Article by Peter High, published on


Whenever I have the occasion to speak with successful CIOs at length, I make it a point to ask them which skills they believe have served them best as they have ascended into the biggest chair in the IT department. Some classic responses understandably crop up time and again. These leaders work in the fast-moving world of IT, and only with a deep knowledge of and curiosity about technology can they stay abreast of developments in the field. Many CIOs will also mention the importance of management skills, given that they need to harness the talents of a large, diverse team of people who run the gamut of Myers-Briggs personality types.

Over the last few months, one skill has been brought up with increasing frequency: a facility with the language of business, and, in particular, finance. A facility with this discipline ensures that IT is contributing to the same key performance indicators that the rest of the organization is, and it also proves that IT is responsible at managing the funds it is given.  More importantly it engenders trust among the rest of the executive team, giving the IT team the credibility to push strategic plans, attend board meetings, and to a greater extent earn a place among the direct reports to the CEO.

IT has long been accepted as a cost center of the company and as a cost of doing business. IT leaders have traditionally not even been asked to present the return on investment (ROI) of the projects they pursued because it was rare that there would be one. Perhaps this helps explain the subservient nomenclature of “IT and the business,” as though they are separate things.

For a long-time, IT departments measured success based on obvious IT metrics such as systems up-time and on-time/on budget/on scope of projects.  As important as these are, they are introductory or foundational metrics.  It is important for IT leaders to use the same success metrics that the rest of the organization does.  In so doing, they begin to think about their portfolio of investments’ potential to contribute to the ultimate success of the business.

I recently spoke with Bruce Hoffmeister, Global CIO of Marriott…

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