According to Gartner’s chief research officer, Chris Howard, “Digital business efforts have accelerated in the face of COVID-19, with leading enterprises and government agencies quickly implementing digital capabilities to support remote and virtual engagement. Now, they have turned their attention to widespread optimization and revenue generation opportunities. CIOs, along with other members of the executive team, are on the implementation front lines.”

Howard goes on to stress that CIOs can’t drive digital transformation alone, but that they must target five roles within the organization to grow the digital acumen and abilities of the entire executive team. With that in mind, below is his guidance for whom to connect with and how to make change happen:

The CFO: Highlight how digital business changes industry economics

Howard suggests CIOs approach the CFO by framing digital transformation investments as a way of getting closer to desired business outcomes, rather than as siloed IT projects with a price tag. For example, discussing how digital technology platforms and tools can optimize costs, reduce labor expenses, or increase efficiency can all help CFOs see the greater value of a proposed initiative.

The CHRO: Emphasize how to engage the workforce for digital business

According to Howard, “Working with the CHRO is key to implementing the right governance structures for moving digital initiatives forward.” He recommends CIOs acknowledge the workforce impact of emerging technologies, but also underscore how digital transformation investments can help fill critical skill gaps in areas like artificial intelligence (AI) or security, and also improve the employee experience.

The CMO: Create excitement for data-driven marketing

As we’ve highlighted before here at the APEX of Innovation, accelerating data-driven marketing efforts is one of digital transformation’s many advantages. In light of the pandemic, engaging customers and planning for a return to profitability are top priorities for CMOs today. As Howard puts it, “CIOs can foster a positive dialogue with their CMO counterparts if they demonstrate the ability to enhance, combine and deploy customer data in support of such priorities.”

The Board: Position IT as a business driver

Howard advises, “The next time the board wants to speak with the CIO because it has a question about security or an upcoming project, take the opportunity to expand the digital conversation and build your knowledge of the business or industry.” It’s important to disprove the notion that CIOs are only focused on the traditional IT agenda. Rather, emphasize the link between technology investments and revenue growth.

Your Staff: Empower them to execute

Leading in today’s unprecedented environment means addressing the feelings, hopes, and fears of direct reports and creating a culture where people are comfortable acknowledging weaknesses and owning their mistakes. Howard writes, “CIOs cannot empower their direct reports unless they understand the politics of their team and their own biases.” By encouraging staff to engage in conversations about digital initiatives among themselves and across the business, CIOs can give their teams the confidence necessary for digital success. It’s also important that CIOs heed this advice themselves and are open to new learning as part of the company’s digital journey.

You can read Howard’s piece in its entirety on for more on how CIOs can inspire the change required for continued digital transformation.