by Mike Altendorf

The CIO talent show

Feb 22, 20124 mins
CareersIT LeadershipTelecommunications Industry

I would like to start this month’s article with a question. How many of you have updated LinkedIn after returning to work, with that thought that maybe, just maybe, you’ll get headhunted for that dream job this year?

If that’s you, then you need to think carefully about the kind of skills and experience you want your profile to illustrate. Today’s corporates are looking for a new breed of CIO.

These days being a CIO has to be one of the hardest jobs in the company and passion, political acumen and intellect need to sit alongside technical expertise and leadership.

That said, if you are stuck in a rut and you have ambition, now is the perfect time to change jobs. It sounds risky but this is your chance to make your mark.

Anyone can perform in a growing economy but in a downturn good people really stand out.

In this environment the transformational CIO will always win against the keep-your-head-down-keep-everything-running-smoothly-and-let’s-limit-change CIO.

If you look around you can see plenty of businesses now suffering because they were too cautious when they needed to change: HMV, Kodak and Nokia to name but a few.

This year I am working with a growing list of companies who are looking for CIO advice, mentoring and selection.

Headhunters are great at finding the technology talentin the market but working out what sort of CIO the business needs and writing the questions to find them is a different skill set.

So why are CIOs suddenly so important? As the data guardian, the CIO is the key to information.

The ability to make the right decisions about your business depends on having the right information.

– Are you operating within industry roles and regulations? – Are you responding to customer needs? – Do you know where the next opportunity lies?

But it’s not just about information: it’s also transformation, and the CIO is the person who makes change happen.

Part of the difficulty in selecting a good CIO has always been that the business doesn’t know what it doesn’t know.

How can executives ask questions about a subject they historically have had no knowledge of or interest in, and now mostly judge according to the experiences of Apple and Google?

What they do know however is that business users are becoming more and more demanding as their experiences outside the workplace are making them more and more convinced that technology could do more in it.

This isn’t something to be feared. A modern CIO sees business users as an extension of his team.

Never mind cloud, consumerisation of IT will be the biggest influence on enterprise technology this year.

What is new is not the fact that clever companies (who do know what they don’t know) bring in outside consultants like myself to help out, it’s that the criteria for selection has changed significantly.

The role is now as much about personality and communication skills as it is about operational excellence.

What organisations want to know is:

– Do you understand not just business, but the language of business? Can you communicate across the organisation with multiple stakeholders in a way that resonates with them? Can you empathise with people in all roles and across areas of responsibility? – Do you understand the importance of words like culture, collaboration, innovation and evolution in building a successful enterprise? – How do you define ROI? it isn’t about how much money you saved on a particular roll-out any more. It has to demonstrate how business performance has improved through technology

All of this doesn’t mean technology takes a back seat. Far from it, innovation through technology is right at the heart of the role.

There are, however, two distinct areas of IT: technology that drives and technology that supports.

The CIO should be focused on the former.

Once the technology becomes a service it should be run like any other facility.

Of course it’s not all about what they want. If you are a half-decent CIO then you are going to be picky.

The fact is if they aren’t asking you to demonstrate your understanding of the business, your ability to challenge the status quo and how you have helped to drive an organisation forward then it probably isn’t a role you want to take.

Next month I’ll be looking at things from a candidate’s point of view and offering you my two penny’s worth on how you make sure the role you get is the one you want.