If it seems as if the roles of chief information officer (CIO) and chief diversity officer (CDO) rarely overlap, think again. In today’s hypercompetitive — and hyperconnected — global marketplace, inclusion, collaboration, and technology are merging as essential drivers of innovation and business success. And the relationship between the CIO and CDO may never be the same.

Indeed, fostering a policy of inclusion and diversity in your organization isn’t just the right thing to do; increasingly, it is also the profitable thing to do. And, it’s a clear business imperative, since great ideas come from all corners — and levels — of the organization.

In a Cisco survey of 7,500 companies, 93 percent of enterprises with a formal policy of inclusion reported that their collaboration technology investments outperformed their business value expectations. That’s just one example of the inclusion/diversity/value equation at work.


Forbes described the equation this way: “Those organizations that make this commitment [to inclusion and diversity] will soon find themselves winning the war on talent and market share. They will dominate their industry and positively impact their bottom line for several years to come.”

Moreover, technology — from data analytics to advanced mobility, video, and collaboration tools — makes inclusion possible on a previously unimagined scale. As the Internet of Everything continues to transform our world with its unprecedented surge in connectivity among people, process, data, and things, the importance of inclusion within an organization will be ever more critical to global collaboration and data-driven decision making.

Together with Shari Slate, Cisco’s chief inclusion and collaboration strategist for the Americas, I have been exploring the key links among inclusion, collaboration, and technology. Our primary research and our conversations with CIOs and CDOs strongly reinforced our belief that inclusion and diversity are distinctly tied to business value.

As Rosalind Hudnell, CDO, Intel Corporation, told us, “From an inclusion standpoint, proof points really are the ability to bring teams together from different geographies, from different cultures, from different backgrounds, to work together to build a common goal.”

Here are some key findings from our survey:

  • Among 7,500 companies surveyed, having an inclusive environment was most associated with realizing value from the Internet of Everything
  • A better exchange of ideas ranked as the second-most-significant benefit from the companies’ collaboration solutions.
  • Ninety percent of organizations view collaboration technology as a key factor in driving inclusion.

To continue to drive this new value, organizations may need to shed some old assumptions. Until recently, the CDO worked horizontally across the organization to foster an inclusive environment, but he or she may have overlooked the role of technology in attaining that goal. At the same time, CIOs were not focusing on the role of inclusion in driving the adoption of their latest technologies.

But that is changing. Steven McIntosh, head of technology and innovation at J Vineyards and Winery, described how his role is evolving: “I’ll be working very closely with the chief diversity officer in order to bring in different perspectives, different viewpoints on how to get things done within the workplace and within the organization.”

Donna Johnson, chief diversity officer at MasterCard Worldwide, spelled out the value of those different perspectives: “What we have found at MasterCard is that the next big idea can come from any level, any region, any person within our organization. That’s the power we believe diversity brings to MasterCard.”

In complex global marketplaces and across far-flung organizations, it is ever more crucial to facilitate diverse, inclusive teams. And, as we have seen, technology is enabling a whole new realm of possibility for inclusion. But the CIO and CDO must be deliberate about nurturing their relationship, while fully understanding each other’s strategies. The result will be terrific new opportunities to solve complex business problems, with solutions coming from all across the organization.

After all, business success is no longer about counting people. It’s about understanding how people interact to drive value. In the rapidly changing world of the Internet of Everything, hyperinnovation will be the norm. And the key differentiator will arise from your organization’s ability to leverage technology to maximize its most essential asset — people.

Sheila Robinson, publisher and CEO of Diversity Woman, summed up the benefits of inclusion: “When you have an inclusive environment, you are really opening the door for true innovation to come into your organization.”


Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services