3 principles for CIOs presenting to the C-suite

A recent Deloitte survey found that CIOs are receiving little funding for IT innovation, despite it being a top priority. According to the survey, 84 per cent of IT budgets are spent on running day-to-day operations and incremental change, with just 16 per cent dedicated to investment in innovation and growth. And it’s not just innovation projects that CIOs are struggling to get budget for – many CIOs are having trouble securing ongoing funding for legacy and core investments. What’s going on?

It could be that CIOs are approaching the board the wrong way. Presenting to senior executives in ‘IT speak’ will cause their business cases to fall on deaf ears; CIOs need to relate to senior executives on a ‘human’ level if they’re to be successful in their bids for investment. This starts with gaining an understanding of the board’s priorities. At this year’s CIO Summit in Sydney, Logicalis CEO Basil Reilly said, “While CIOs’ priorities are typically ERP and CRM, CEOs aren’t concerned with those. CEOs don’t care about IT and CIOs are spending time building metrics that are at odds with what’s really important to senior executives. It’s not about metrics, its not about ERP, it’s not about reports – it’s about human interaction”.

And as someone who’s been in both positions, who better than Reilly to advise CIOs on this issue? Reilly spent 10 years as a CIO before making the transition to CEO, and can appreciate what needs to be done to present effectively to what he calls the ‘big dogs’. He recently wrote an article on this topic for APAC CIO Outlook magazine outlining the most important steps in these presentations. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Understand your audience

Most CIOs are left brain dominant whilst most CEOs are right brain dominant – this means they process data differently. The majority of CEOs are Type A personalities, which means they are time poor, have low attention spans, can multitask and are good with numbers. They are more driven, more focused, more goal-oriented, more diligent, more likely to get stressed and emotional. They will each have a different view on life: CEO – what is the strategic impact; COO – just trying to get through the week; CFO – wants to verify the data and numbers. You may need to send through information prior to the meeting for different people in the audience, depending on their type and role, this will get their attention and interest.

  1. Work quickly

The first thing to remember is that pace is as important as content when presenting to the big dogs. You need to at least double your speed, they will let you know if you need to slow down or focus on a point. For a 30 minute presentation you need to plan on presenting for 10-15 minutes, 2 to 3 minutes per slide, use only 5 slides max and ensure that you have a slide informing them what you need out of them that day. Remember it is their meeting too so respect their time – 50% you and 50% them.

The second thing to remember is it’s not a presentation but a structured discussion. Your goal is to get people from point A to point B. Having built your presentation, actually bring your concluding slide to the beginning so the final point/s are shown immediately, and then tell them how you got to that conclusion. Most of the time they will not let you present the rest of your slides but they will have a discussion with you on your conclusion. The key here is they want the bottom line of your presentation upfront – they are not interested in a shaggy dog story.

  1. Monitor your progress

Watch the audience and be fully aware of the mood. Are they getting bored? Do you need to speed up? Have you lost them? If you run into trouble – or the discussion gets taken into another direction – you must be able to abandon your presentation and chair the discussion to help you get your desired result. Question the audience, particularly if they are glazing over.

It’s common for senior executives to ask you to jump back to a previous slide or fast forward through your slides to a particular section of your presentation. If the discussion is taking longer than planned, be prepared to abandon whole sections of your presentation and focus on the bottom line. Expect them to say “next” or move along. They are not being impolite – they have understood your point faster than the average audience.

Be human

Note that none of these tips are technology-related, but more about understanding the people you’re presenting to and picking up on human cues. That’s because aligning IT with the business is not a matter of metrics or reports, but the relationships CIOs have with business leaders – especially the CEO. Ultimately, this is what will secure the CIO’s future in the organisation.

To learn more about business-IT alignment and how to foster it in your organisation, download our complimentary eBook,  ‘Aligning IT and Business: A practical guide for leading change in a service defined world’.

Tags CIO, CIO Leadership, CIOs, Deloitte, IT leadership, business executives, Logicalis


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