According to a recent article in, “The rising demand for data creates natural tension with the forces trying to manage cost, complexity, and security.”

As these forces are typically C-level roles and other positions on the leadership team, it’s essential that the tension is dissipated in order to move the business forward. In today’s data-driven business culture, the CIO, CTO, CISO and others in the C-Suite need to have open, honest lines of communication with the CEO and the board.

In an InformationWeek article on this topic, Woody Driggs, America’s Advisory Digital Transformation Wavespace Leader at EY, said leadership “need[s] to understand how IT’s role is changing to support…rapid innovation, this need for continuous change, this need for continuous updating of the customer experience from the outside in.”

So how can CIOs and other data leaders help their colleagues understand this transformation and bridge the C-Suite divide?

This is a complicated issue, but a lot can be accomplished with some surprisingly simple steps. See below:

  1. Focus on Business Objectives — When communicating with others in the C-Suite, do away with jargon and technical specifics and focus instead on the longer-term strategic priorities associated with the project at hand.
  2. Active Listening — According to a recent Forbes post by Cisco’s Alex Goryachev, “Simply put, people listen mostly to respond rather than to understand. However, digitization demands active listening to the ecosystem in order to survive and develop collaborative strategies” — both within and outside of the organization.
  3. Change Your Perspective — Consider the issue from the perspective of others in the C-Suite — for example, what are the CISO’s chief objections likely to be about a proposed data integration project? Thinking about this in advance — and incorporating talking points to address these concerns — can alleviate some of the friction associated with new implementations.
  4. Demonstrate ROI — IT has historically been seen as a cost center, rather than a strategic department delivering value to the business. While this perception has changed in recent years, it’s important that data leaders continue to demonstrate the return on proposed initiatives and underscore how these investments will improve outcomes.

As the saying goes, the only thing that is constant is change. We can expect that the relationship dynamics among the C-Suite will continue to evolve with analytics and business intelligence trends — not to mention the emergence of new ones. In this environment, the executives that can achieve open and honest communication with their colleagues are those with the best chance of avoiding the “natural tension” examined in the article.