by Mark Blanke

Do you have what it takes to be a successful CIO?

Dec 11, 2017
CIOIT Leadership

When speaking to a number of currently successful CIOs, there are a few reoccurring attributes that exemplify the qualities needed to be a successful CIO in the future.

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of chairing the 2017 Future CIO Summit in Boston.  I was joined by many successful CIOs as they participated in keynotes, presentations, panel discussions, and interactive sessions on assorted set of topics. Most related to the leadership challenges of being a CIO.  It was an enlightening few days.   

There were a few reoccurring attributes mentioned that exemplified the qualities needed to be a successful CIO of the future.  These included:   

People and communications

We often think of CIOs as technology leaders, and I am sure many consider technology knowledge as the most important aspect of the role.  This knowledge is clearly an important and somewhat unique trait for a CIO. However, a CIO is a leader, and much of leadership is about working and leading people and communicating appropriately to the various audiences he or she must interact.  Also, the role of mentoring and fostering staff and surrounding yourself with a strong team is part of being a successful leader. 

Agility and relationship building

An executive role requires the skill and ability to think about problems that have multiple origins, conflicting stakeholders, and dynamic environments. The CIO needs to be a rounded professional, having strong capabilities in technical, business, strategy, social and political dimensions. Working across every single part of the business is one of the fascinating things about IT, but you need to know what drives each department, how to build good relationships across the organization, and how to react to an ever-changing environment. 

Become a part of the revenue stream

There is real opportunity for CIOs to provide support in the sales process.  CIOs are executive representatives of their company.  They can play an equal part to their C-Suite peers in representing their company in front of their customers and prospects, especially when change is related to their ever-expanding use of technology.  Who would be better to represent why a company is innovative than the CIO, the person who is responsible for the business’s technology?  Furthermore, the CIO can be instrumental in listening to a customer’s needs for improved use of technology and help their business drive innovation to meet customer needs. 

After listening to the sessions regarding the future of a CIO and the traits and areas of responsibility of this role, I summarized my thoughts as follows: 

Why would anyone want to be a CIO?  It requires:

  • True business knowledge and leadership 
  • Providing corporate direction in a digital world 
  • Acting as a representative of the company and participating in Sales 
  • Advising on the development of new digital products 
  • In-depth knowledge of finance
  • Tactical leadership including, spearheading major transformations, overseeing the IT project portfolio and ensuring effective IT operations 
  • Mentoring and facilitating the growth of staff 
  • Fostering collaboration and innovation 
  • Being a technology expert

Being a CIO is a difficult job and is not a role at which many people can been exceptionally successful.  It requires a multitude of knowledge and skills that must evolve to successfully lead in today’s business environments and stay ahead of the curve.

However, there are wonderfully driven and talented people who are always up for a challenge and it is this type of person that does well as a CIO.  On a personal note, this is probably why I have so enjoyed my career working with this community. 

Moving forward, there is a huge opportunity for the CIO to demonstrate leadership for the entire business. The IT strategy will be the lifeline for the business in the future and the most exciting positions will not only need to know technology, but also be savvy in finance, marketing, sales and HR.   

Through 2018, I look forward to publishing some of my conversations with some select CIOs and will share with you some of their successes and challenges.