by David Clarke

What CEOs want from their CIOs

Mar 12, 20124 mins
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

See also: Tesco CIO Mike McNamara’s relationship with CEO Philip Clarke

In such a volatile commercial world, the role of the CIO continues to evolve and seems to be gaining more responsibility and recognition within business.

This year we conducted a survey considering the responsibilities of the CIO and the results demonstrated the increasing importance of the role, not only in delivering IT enabled change, but in being involved from the very beginning in the strategic decisions all businesses need to take today.

We asked today’s CIO what their CEO had made the highest priority for their team.

Coming top in our survey was business transformation and organisational change, with thirty two per cent.

This is very encouraging in that it is not just the IT element of such change that CEO’s are asking their CIOs to become involved with.

This level of influence also reflects the impact that technology can have on a business as a whole and the increasing reliance organisations have on the technology team to enable improvement in their productivity.

Improving productivity is going to be the critical success factor for UK companies, and intelligent use of technology is the single most effective way of achieving this.

Technology is now so entrenched into every day working life, CIOs and the IT team should be at the heart of any strong organisation, taking an increasing strategic role.

However, as our survey also shows, for a CIO greater levels of responsibility do not always mean getting the right resources.

Scarce resources Only twenty nine per cent of all CIOs we asked felt they had enough resources to achieve what their CEO had asked their team to do, and yet what they had been asked to do was critical to the success of the organisation.

Being a CIO does not mean you are a miracle worker; you have to have the right budgets and people for a project if you want to get the right results.

This is why the modern CIO should have a seat in every boardroom; helping influence budgets and proving the worth of short-term spend for long-term savings and investment.

Several strong organisations have identified this and we have seen in recent years an increase in CIOs moving to the role of CEO.

A good example is Scott Thompson, new CEO of Yahoo, who once held the CIO position for Barclays Global Investors and originates from a technical background.

He is not alone; Tesco’s CEO Philip Clarke used to be the supermarket chain’s CIO, making the move to the top position in 2011.

When you consider what the modern CIO is tasked with as their top priorities — business transformation and organisational change — to best achieve in the role, as well as an understanding of the technology, CIOs need to possess the so-called softer skills, such as influencing, communication, and team management.

Sometimes I feel softer skills is a poor choice of phrase as in many ways these are the hardest things to do well.

Without these people and management skills a CIO will struggle to progress any ambitious project.

Strong communication and team management within an organisation throughout any transformation or change is key.

Change is not always well received and as a CIO you need to be able to bring the business along with you; having the full trust of your team as well as other colleagues as you sometimes make difficult decisions.

If you get the balance of skills right, a good CIO can lead an organisation through any business transformation and organisational change.

Today’s CIOs are proving their worth in successful organisations across the world and we will see this continue to grow as we become more reliant on IT enabled business.

CIOs and the IT profession as a whole have a bright future; we would like to see their contribution to business matched by the resources they have to work with.

David Clarke is chief executive of the BCS

*The research was carried by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. A total of 252 responses were received between 6 October and 2 November 2011.

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