From any angle, last week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando was crackling with excitement. Twitter was on fire as “masterminds” such as IBM’s Ginni Rometty and GE’s Jeff Immelt took the stage for keynotes in a cool interview format. But the keynote that resonated most with me was Gartner research VP Mary Mesaglio’s. She talked about how “CIOs should become trusted allies to move from a culture of control to one of influence.”

influence_revenueCIO as influencer — I like that a lot. I like CIOs influencing by generating revenue even better.

Taming complexity to earn trust

In her opening keynote, Mesaglio said the strong sense of intuition that the most successful CIOs have — this is empirically proven — helps them lead in uncertain environments and solve complex problems in creative ways. This creates a sense of trustworthiness that yields incredible influence within the organization.

For example, well over half of “trusted ally” CIOs lead digital teams across their enterprises, versus only a third of all other CIOs. With digital transformation now top of mind in the C-suite, those who can drive this change are extremely important to the organization.

“Don’t be a legacy fatalist”

But being a trusted ally isn’t enough. Mesaglio said CIOs must also focus on what is important by divesting non-differentiating assets. She challenged CIOs to divest themselves of legacy systems, ownership bias and cloud fear. IT organizations must overcome decades of inertia to divest legacy systems that no longer add value. “Don’t be a legacy fatalist,” she said.

This advice is amplified in Gartner’s excellent CIO Agenda Report, “Flipping to Digital.” Here’s a small excerpt:

Flip 1: From “legacy first” to “digital first”

Beyond simplification, cloud and mobile are now valuable options, if not necessities. New and replacement services need to be architected, starting with the assumption that a public cloud solution will deliver services consumed in a mobile setting having a high level of contextualization. This requires flipping from a “legacy-first” to an outside-in, “digital-first” leadership mindset.

Analytics as revenue generator

When you apply this “digital first” thinking to analytics, you can see how cloud based analytics are the way to generate value for the business, replacing cumbersome legacy systems. What’s more, the ease with which cloud-architected analytics can be embedded within existing applications makes it a snap for CIOs to build “enterprise analytics products” that interpret the mountains of data every organization has.

These enterprise apps transform raw big data into targeted information that is extremely valuable to external parties. Presto — you’ve just built a significant revenue stream, which makes any CIO more influential within the C-suite.

In my next blog, I’ll take a deeper dive into how companies are using analytics on their own data to generate revenues and other valuable outcomes.