The IT agenda, Shurts says, must flow from business strategy and need. "I'm going to be spending a lot of time with the head of marketing, CFO, the head of supply chain, and the CEO and all their direct reports working through issues and figuring out what role IT role plays in helping delivering it," he says. "The role of a CIO today and tomorrow is always going to begin from the business and then work back into the technology issues."
When interviewed in July, SuperValu's Shurts had not been on the job for long, having taken the reins in late April. When asked what "boardroom expectations" had been placed on him, he replied that "it's probably fuzzier than most jobs, I'll give you that." But that lack of clarity (at that point in his tenure) didn't bother him in the least. He was taking initiative to set the overall expectations--for his department and for himself.
"I've gone out of my way to make sure that my expectations here are not all around IT," Shurts says. "I'm not shying away from all of those [IT] things: I own them all and am completely responsible for their success. But I want it to be more than that. I want to be playing in the strategy and business transformation areas as much as the IT area.... To some degree, I want people to think of me maybe as the chief transformation officer as well as the CIO."
Shurts isn't waiting for his invitation to the inner sanctum of SuperValu's strategy planning. And neither should other CIOs.
At Sony Electronics, CIO Drew Martin says "waiting to be asked" is a mistake that too many CIOs make. "I think it's more a matter of understanding what's important to the business--and then engaging in dialogue around what tech innovations can be brought to bear to accomplish those business objectives," Martin says. "If you wait to be asked, it's too late. If you have to ask for permission, there's a credibility gap there."
More and more of Sony Electronics' products are enabling new customer connections via the Internet and social media platforms. In turn, Martin and his group are side by side with business peers ensuring that when, say, the marketing group wants to engage with customers via Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, or via a Sony product-support site, they have the CRM tools to do that.
For instance, Sony maintains a "Sony Listens" customer service on Twitter. Martin says it's critical that when there's "conversation out there regarding dissatisfaction or confusion we have the infrastructure support to listen and respond effectively."