They must identify, invest and implement smart ways to use technology to their advantage. And they must think about infusing technology and digital strategy throughout the organizational structure. CEOs who think of technology as a tool—but not as a strategic imperative—will be left behind.

But how can CEOs accomplish this?

.orgSource interviewed current CEO and former CTO Bill Bruce, MBA, CAE, for his perspectives. Bruce is the executive director at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and previously was the inaugural CTO at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. During his five years at AAOS, Bruce established a multi-year, organization-wide technology strategy to keep the organization on the forefront of beneficial technology. That effort ultimately allowed AAOS to take control of its myriad integration needs directly rather than depending on multi-vendor collaboration.

Here are Bruce’s comments about five truths for enabling a CIO mindset:

1. The CEO and CIO should strive for a codependent relationship. 

The CEO needs to be thinking about business strategy vis-à-vis broader organizational goals and the ability of the organization to execute strategy. In that effort, the CIO needs to be a powerful ally to the CEO. The CIO should have access to strategic discussions at the board level and partner with the CEO to represent the current and future capabilities that drive the digital aspects of strategy.

CEOs need to recruit digital executives with whom they can develop robust rapport and trust, and they need to be willing to listen to the counsel they get from the CIO. Most associations struggle with the perspective of digital business as an investment, rather than a cost center. The CEO – CIO relationship should help with that shift.

2. While the CEO needs to think more like a CIO, the reverse also is true.

The CIO should work to think like a CEO. CIOs tend to be too optimistic about the potential for digital transformation and are often hindered by culture and change management. CEOs are at the root of where organizational attitudes about culture form, and CEOs tend to be less optimistic about technology.​

3. CEOs must embrace technology as a strategic asset.

CEOs should think like a CIO with respect to the investment in digital and should seek to maximize the impact that investment will have on executing strategy. CEOs need to be open to and enthusiastic for the potential—and limits—of technology as a strategic asset. CEOs should take a long view of technology as they would organizational structure, financial strategy, and program development. Understanding that technology is a critical component of nearly all organizational initiatives will give it an appropriate but not overly emphasized position in the CEO’s tool chest.

4. CEOs should address “legacy debt,” or systems that are inadequate to meet customers’ current and future needs.

ACOEM’s situation at present dictates a need for a fairly large investment to address legacy debt. Many of our current systems are not adequate to meet today’s needs, let alone those of tomorrow. We are aggressively developing a digital transformation strategy that will encompass the majority of the organization’s programs. At the core, we will be putting in a new CRM system that can be a true enabler of success.

Along with that, we are rethinking our entire digital brand and constituent experience so we can replace what we have today with a consistent, modern experience that prioritizes long term value delivery over short-term costs. Specifically, we are aiming at reducing the friction that our constituents experience in their interactions with us. We hope that this will allow the value of our content and services to stand out more prominently.

5. Digital office environments enable collaboration, mobility and simplicity—something every CEO should consider.

Internally at ACOEM, we are completely redefining our views of the workplace. Rather than focusing on the current year’s budget alone, we are looking at a digital office environment that enables collaboration, mobility, and simplicity. This will reduce our needs for day-to-day support and infrastructure.

In fact, we are completely eliminating all of our premise-based systems. This will enable a ‘work anywhere’ culture that combines with our new systems to lower our dependence on IT support, empowering program staff to be more productive. By reducing the amount of staff time allocated to legacy technology support and the related silos that exist, ACOEM will spend a higher percentage of every dues dollar on the direct creation of constituent value. We will, by that measure, be more efficient as an organization.