How to Spot a Bad CIO

A look at the conversation initiated by Senior Editor Meridith Levinson, about how IT assesses the quality of a CIO.

What makes a bad CIO? That's a question Senior Editor Meridith Levinson asked CIO.com visitors recently. Many people joined in the discussion; their answers are intriguingand all over the map.

One person argued that bad CIOs lack a technical background and formal education in IT.

Another took issue with this, saying, "A technical degree is by no means a core requirement.... A CIO must be able to set direction, understand enough about technology to anticipate and understand new trends, and relate to the business executives within the company, [though] I do believe that there are some CIOs who came from the business that know so little about IT that they cannot relate to their staff."

Another observer declared that "ultimately, the CIO's performance should boil down to his contribution to the company's bottom line." OK, but then this person adds,

"IT is a cost center, and a good CIO will be conscious about keeping that in check."

A subsequent visitor replied: "This is why there are bad CIOs.... The way [many] companies improve their IT-dollar-to-revenue ratio is by cutting the IT budget because nobody outside of IT understands exactly how they contribute. [This] leads to poorer IT performance, which reduces the contribution of IT, which lowers the IT-dollar-to-revenue ratio, which leads to more IT budget cuts and so on."

Another described the passive/powerless, bad CIO scenario this way: "If business is always poking their noses into IT, guess what...it's because IT has not EARNED their trust and they think they can run it better.... It doesn't matter if the incompetence is real or not.... What good is the CIO if he can't even give the right perception? People under him suffer because of him."

Many of the posts focused on relationships: between the CIO and the IT staff or between the CIO and other execs. Bad CIOs, most believe, simply fail to connect to others.

Clearly, there are plenty of ways to come up short as a CIO. But what I believe they boil down to is this: the need to build trust and manage perceptions with people inside or outside of IT.

What do you think?

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