The Changing Role of the CIO
The CIO role is changing. A changing business environment is redefining the role from a technically-focused one to that of a true business leader. We’ve been saying this for years, but this time, it’s for real. Companies are increasingly “meaning business” about bringing technology to the business table and are increasingly seeing that they do not have to be tolerant of CIOs that do not possess the skills necessary to do this.
For years, many CIOs have been clamoring for the proverbial “seat at table” of high impact on business strategy. In many companies, the opportunity is now there. The profile of the person using technology has expanded dramatically and businesses can no longer ignore the impact of technology on a company.
The challenge is in making sure the CIO has the skills necessary to rise to the challenge.
I discussed this with Larry Bonfante, author of ”Lessons in IT Transformation: Technology Expert to Business Leader”, the USTA (United States Tennis Association) CIO and president of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, a prominent business consulting firm.
“The CIO can no longer be a CIO in the traditional sense,” said Larry. “CIOs must transition from guardians of information to innovators who develop new approaches for using information to advance the business.”
A midmarket CIO/equivalent is affected by this as much as a Global 2000 CIO. Technology levels the playing field. Or it should. A midmarket CIO must bring appropriate economies and capabilities to the shop.
Continually reacting to most user communities is never enough. There are several characteristics of typical user communities that seldom make them good barometers for CIO performance. They tend to severely underestimate or overestimate the capabilities of technology but regardless tend to underestimate the associated budgets and timeframes. They also tend to take a very discrete view of a delivery and outline solutions that may not be appropriate for the enterprise.
While bringing technology to the table, the CIO must take the perspective that technology only matters when it helps drive tangible business value. CIOs need to focus technology investments on what truly matters for the organization.
There are several aspects to CIO transformation to be accomplished for many CIOs, in categories of relationship management, marketing, partnering and building human capital, according to Larry. Starting with “talking the talk”, IT executives must improve their communication skills to become effective relationship managers. CIOs must also be capable of communicating their vision for the organization. Finally, CIOs must learn to inspire people and transform their organizations.
Senior management is raising the bar on CIO expectations, determined to appoint and promote information officers who play key roles in pursuing the organizational mission. CIOs are in position to enhance their importance, compensation and marketability by widening the scope of their influence and contributions to the enterprise.
“There is always a fear factor when coming out of one’s comfort zone,” Bonfante adds. “I developed the CIO Career Accelerator Pathway program to help ease the transition. Once the CIO takes the leap, the rewards can be immeasurable.”
In terms of technology domains, Larry mentioned applying wireless and mobile technology as being prime examples of where CIOs can begin to demonstrate their value in new and necessary ways.
The CIO role is bifurcating. More risk, more reward, more everything. Leadership and people skills are becoming more valuable to the business. Those who lack them are at risk of marginalized. Those who have those skills will rise as a CIO.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.