From CIO to CEO: A Holistic Approach to Business Leadership
CIOs are uniquely positioned to be dynamic leaders in times of change management
There’s plenty of chatter these days about the evolution of IT and the ever-changing role of the CIO as technology has become critical across all business functions.
While technology has moved to the forefront of most, if not all, business discussions – How can we streamline processes? How can we stay ahead of our competitors? How can we drive down costs? How can we improve sales? – the CIO’s role has advanced beyond simply keeping the lights on, the phones and printers working and computers running at optimum speed. Ensuring smooth operations is only a piece of the puzzle, and true technology leadership requires relationship development with all company users, not just executive peers.
It was no surprise to Boardroom Events or his colleagues on the Midmarket CIO Forum Advisory Board when Zarir Erani, then CIO at Hallmark Business Solutions, announced his new post as President and CEO at Sun Country Airlines in 2015.
“As Technologists, we have a purview of an organization that most other functional leaders do not have – specifically from an Operational perspective. We need to know every other function’s processes and goals in order to leverage technology to enable the business.”
After studying Computer Science, Marketing and Finance at the University of Minnesota and starting his career as analyst with Minneapolis-based Carlson Marketing, Erani said he’s always been focused professionally on providing a more holistic approach to his role.
While some questioned his capacity to lead a value-based airline through periods of contraction, Erani suggested that his fresh perspective as an industry outsider allowed him to ask abnormal questions that could potentially spark change.
“I firmly believe that innovation occurs at the intersection of different disciplines.”
Erani intentionally kept his distance from the technology team to avoid perception as solely a technology leader when he moved into the leadership role two years ago. Most of his time was spent with other functional leaders to establish credibility and assess the needs of the business as whole. As CEO, his responsibility is to set expectations for the company’s leadership but allow them, particularly in the CIO’s role, to ensure stability, drive simplification of the portfolio and ensure the technology team is planting the seeds for innovation and automation across the enterprise.
Though he keeps an appropriate distance from the IT organization, he’s not straying far from his systems back ground in driving industry disruption. Erani said like many midmarket companies, Sun Country has a plethora of applications housing information disparately, so efforts will focus on rationalizing the company’s portfolio of applications with Enterprise Architecture principles.
Zarir Erani will present the opening keynote, From Surviving to Thriving: A personal journey from CIO to CEO and the impact and success of new technology at Sun Country Airlines at the Midmarket CIO Forum on Sunday, October 15, 2017 in Austin, TX.