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IDC says CIOs in the Middle East need better business skills to contribute to the bottom line.

To help maximise an organisation's chances for success, CIOs in the Middle East must get more involved with the bottom line. They need to work more closely with the CEO and they need to start thinking like the CEO, according to a recent report from IDC.

Currently, at best most CIOs focus on operational efficiency and systems that support revenue-generating activities. While this role is valuable to any given organisation, it is no longer enough. IT has become such an essential part of organisational structure that it serves more than a supporting role. Applications and systems that deal with customer care, performance monitoring, and sales and product development are having a direct effect on tangible indices of success.

Getting these applications up and running is just the first step, says IDC Middle East’s Philip Van Heerden. “To pull full benefit from any IT system designed to enhance revenue, CIOs and CEOs must push for a fundamental shift in the nature of a CIO's relationship to senior management, the organisation as a whole, and its clients or customers,” he says.

This starts by focusing on the bigger picture that drives the CEO’s agenda, says Van Heerden. Then by working closely with company officers such as the CEO, CFO, and the COO, CIOs can develop a better understanding of short and long-term goals and how IT can be actively used to achieve them. “This means stepping out from the server room or from behind a terminal, interacting with clients, participating in strategy meetings to ensure IT is included as an essential component of planning and, perhaps most importantly, identifying how existing and new IT systems can contribute to the bottom line,” explains Van Heerden.

While the CIO will still face the challenges of supervising traditional, support-oriented infrastructure, supporting IT functions will be increasingly inseparable from proactive solutions designed to boost revenue. Fortunately, the same relationship and leadership skills the CIO needs to work more closely with the CEO can be applied to developing closer ties with vendors, IT service providers, subordinates, and internal staff in general.

"In the long run, the synthesis of thinking like a businessperson and a CIO should lead to innovative processes that can do more to expand business than if the roles were strictly divided. Company leaders need to start making this happen,” concludes Van Heerden.

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