When it comes to hiring C-level positions, almost no company has a problem defining the skills and characteristics needed for the CEO, CFO, or COO.\u00a0 Why, then is it so difficult to select the right talent to fill the top IT role?\u00a0 In just this year, as this article illustrates it has been harder than ever to find and hire top notch CIO talent.\nThe problem is at least partially related to the amount of change that each work type has undergone over the past 30 years.\u00a0 Running the overall company works much the same today as it did in the nineteen eighties.\u00a0 The world of international finance has come a long way, but the ins and outs of accounting have not varied greatly since the beginning of the information era.\u00a0 Business operations have made great strides in many areas including supply chain heuristics and efficiency, but an operations executive from the turn of the century would not be out of place today.\u00a0 In the world of technology, however, the requirements for leadership have changed significantly about every five years.\nDilemmas in IT are not repetitive\nJust eighteen years ago the dominant concern in technology was \u201cY2K\u201d.\u00a0 Businesses worldwide were terrified that the switch to calendar years starting with 2XXX would cause core business systems to crash or otherwise become non-functional.\u00a0 A common job description for a CIO position would have read something like this summary:\nCIO Wanted.\u00a0 Must have deep experience in business continuity and\/or disaster recovery.\u00a0 Exposure to client server systems, data center design\/maintenance, and MRP systems a plus.\u00a0 Experience with Windows NT4.0 desktops beneficial as well as demonstrated success managing Visual Basic and C++ development teams.\u00a0 Additional consideration given to any individual with a background in IP networks and technology\nFast forward to the technology landscape today and everything has changed.\u00a0 Almost every type of software and hardware elements are different, team structures have evolved or become obsolete, and priorities are focused in new directions.\u00a0 In some cases, the duties of the CIO position have become so complex that new roles such as CTO, CISO, and CDO (chief digital officer) have emerged.\u00a0 If a \u201cstandard\u201d job description could be written today it might read:\nCIO wanted. Must be well versed in DevOps, Agile & Scrum methodologies, and the use of Docker in a distributed development environment. Solid understanding of cloud technologies and virtualization (server\/endpoint) is required. Looking for a transformational change agent who can advise executive\/board management while also leading from the front. In-depth knowledge and experience of next-gen security systems and methodologies is required.\nUnlike any other executive position, the requirements for the CIO are almost unrecognizable when compared to 1999.\u00a0\nIn hiring for the CIO role companies face a tremendous challenge to even understand what qualifications need focus.\u00a0 Criteria used just five years ago for the recruitment and selection of a CIO cannot be recycled.\u00a0 As the tenure for the CFO continues to increase, in just this year (2017) CIO longevity has shrunk by a full year.\nGiven the continual changes in skill set requirements what can companies do to \u201cget it right\u201d?\nFocus on the material and not the pattern\nThe most common mistake made in CIO searches is a too-rigid focus on specific skill sets and tool knowledge.\u00a0 Each company has a unique technology footprint and the top IT leader must certainly understand how to run the operation.\u00a0 However, the ephemeral nature of information technologies means that the current architecture will soon be replaced.\u00a0 While domain skills are certainly important for CIO candidates to possess, focusing too much on them will narrow the perspective of hiring managers.\u00a0\nThe top IT leader must have expertise in both technical and functional areas but first and foremost the individual, if truly CIO-caliber, must be a strategic thinker.\u00a0 Technology changes so quickly that a CIO has to be able to accurately see the future.\u00a0 This vision is the critical component for successfully maneuvering the organization to embrace what is not yet visible but will surely come.\nIt is not widely known but the level of strategic capability within an individual can be measured. Building upon the pioneering work of Elliot Jacques (the scientist who coined the phrase \u201cmidlife crisis\u201d), firms such as U.S.-based Peoplefit have developed a way to assess the strategic capability of an individual.\u00a0 By assigning a numerical level to a person and then matching that against the value of a role, a company can actually see whether a candidate has the strategic ability to execute the duties required of the CIO.\u00a0 In general a person is assessed to have a strategic capability, or \u201clevel of work\u201d somewhere on a spectrum from 1-7.\u00a0 What do these numbers mean?\u00a0 A whole lot when overlaid on a definition of common supervisory roles that exist in modern businesses.\n\n\n\n\nExample Role\n\n\nStrategic Capability\n\n\n\n\nLevel 1 \u2013 Work defined by procedure, Admin, Beginning Programmer\n\n\n1 day to 3 months\n\n\n\n\nLevel 2 \u2013 First level manager, Programmer Analyst\n\n\n3 months to 1 year\n\n\n\n\nLevel 3 \u2013 Department Head, Sr. Programmer\n\n\n1 year to 2 years\n\n\n\n\nLevel 4 \u2013 Director, GM, VP\n\n\n2 years to 5 years\n\n\n\n\nLevel 5 \u2013 Head of a Single Business Unit or corporate staff, SrVP, C-Level\n\n\n5 years to 10 years\n\n\n\n\nLevel 6 \u2013 Head of a Number of Business Units, Group VP, Executive VP\n\n\n10 years to 20 years\n\n\n\n\nLevel 7 \u2013 Lead Corporation consisting of a number of groups of businesses\n\n\n20 years to 50 years\n\n\n\n\nAll too often candidates are selected based on interview skills, technical prowess, or the pedigree they have gained from working at a well-respected west coast tech firm.\u00a0 Those qualifications by themselves are not negative.\u00a0 But when a candidate with capabilities at level two or three is chosen to be a CIO, nothing will make up for the lack of strategic thinking or visionary qualities that only begins to emerge at the fourth level.\nDetermining a person\u2019s level of work is not something that can be pinpointed by someone unfamiliar and untrained with the assessment techniques.\u00a0 No matter how skilled the interviewers, they will not be able to holistically compile the profile on a candidate unless external help is included.\u00a0 Since most companies are unaware of the concept for levels of work and why it is so important, it is not surprising that this data is mostly unused in CIO selections.\nHire CIOs as if your business depends on them\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\nThere has been a lot of discussion this year about the pitfalls that can occur when CIO leadership does not measure up.\u00a0 When Equifax learned that they had lost the data on over 145 million customers this year during an information security breach, they quickly \u201cretired\u201d the CIO and CISO. \u00a0Richard Smith, the CEO and board chair, attempted to stay on but was ousted a few weeks later.\u00a0 Ultimately the cause of the breach will be listed as an Apache Struts vulnerability but it was really a failure in vision.\u00a0 A level 4-plus leader, whether technical or not, would have seen the positioning of Equifax and how its massive treasure trove of valuable data presented an irresistible target for financial hackers around the globe.\u00a0 During the first quarter of 2017, Equifax was already using A.I. and machine learning in its credit scoring systems.\u00a0 Would a future thinking CIO have already made the correlation for the value of machine learning in cybersecurity? With trillions of records to manage and protect the likely answer is \u201cYes."\nSearching for a CIO should be an exercise in strategic leadership assessment, not technical prowess.\u00a0 With the stakes getting higher and higher, companies should assess, train, and reward the CIO role in the same way as other C-Level positions.\u00a0 The future of business may just depend on it.