Every leader needs a vision for achieving success within the constraints of budget, time, staff and skills. Bob DeMarzo looks at what IT leaders must gather to ensure their vision is business-proof.

What kind of CIO or IT leader do you want to be? That question is heavy on our minds here at the Midsize Enterprise Summit as we prepare for the Spring 2018 conference. The theme of the event, “A New Vision for the Midsize Enterprise CIO,” reflects the state of the midmarket CIO who faces an onslaught of new technology solutions that require leaders to execute at scale.

IT leaders are also under pressure to articulate disruptive tech solutions like AI, IoT, Blockchain, containers and public cloud to senior leaders who want to understand the business value of making such investments.

As a result, it is time for every midmarket CIO and senior IT leader to develop and articulate a new vision to their teams, leaders and technology partners. I know that the whole vision thing got a bad rap a few years back. There was a famous quote by a tech leader who said his company had more than enough strategy and vision, but not enough execution. Vision seemed headed for the graveyard. A few years later, business execs were suddenly talking less about vision and more about business transformation, disruption and innovation. Exciting stuff. It not may not make a roaring comeback you should wager money on like the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl, but we believe it’s time to refocus on vision.

Think of it this way. Every leader needs a game plan—which is a nice way of saying a vision—for achieving a high level of success within the constraints of budget, time, staff and skills. Everyone is attracted to people with a vision vs. those who are just strategists or caught up with execution.

One thing we all know is that CIOs cannot lead without a vision they can articulate.

Gartner, which is our event collaborator for the Midsize Enterprise Summit, uses the phrase “CIO agenda” as a building block for vision. If IT leaders can develop their agenda—in conjunction with their partners, team and peers—they increase their chances of success and, of course, being called a visionary.

Having an agenda that everyone understands is a critical leadership component of every midmarket CIO. But let’s figure out all the stuff every IT leader needs to gather to ensure their vision is business-proof.

* First, get a firm understanding of your organization’s business priorities over the next two years. Connect with business leaders to make sure you know the growth and market share goals along with workforce and customer focus. In addition, every IT leader needs to understand their company’s R&D pipeline and new product development. If IT leaders are the ones who must make sure their companies transform digitally they need a firm grasp on those business priorities.

* After you assemble that information, the visionary CIO must rate the importance of specific technologies that are most important to help their businesses differentiate and win. Yes, we don’t often talk about it but every CIO’s vision must be tied to winning. Nothing else really matters. As a result, CIOs must figure out how BI/analytics, cloud services, ERP or mobility help differentiate their companies. No one else can do that job and that is what makes the CIO and IT leader such a valuable member of the organization.

As you can tell from what was covered above, vision requires work. It also requires every midmarket CIO to understand that they are leading IT in their companies, not just IT leaders.