The CIO Role Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Marriott International CIO Carl Wilson tells why it's up to today's IT leaders to teach future CIOs tomorrow's skills.

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When I consider the progress we've made, and in some cases haven't made, I think of one of the best pieces of professional advice I ever received. I was attending a meeting where David Packard, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard, was speaking. And he said, "Recognize, reward and compensate your people on where you want to be, not where you are today, and they will get you there." This is advice I encourage all IT leaders to take to heart.

The Next 20 Years

I don't think the CIO role will split, be absorbed or disappear. We will need CIOs to be the general thought leaders and coordinators of business technology. But I do think some of the accountability for IT strategy will be shared with our business peers. That's the best thing that could happen, because it means that even more of our people will be adept at applying technology for advantage over our competitors.

While the CIOs of the future will continue to be accountable for most of the work we generally associate with the position today, they will also need to be prepared to take on expanded leadership accountabilities. They may be leaders of enterprisewide shared services organizations, business process outsourcing departments, or change management and customer relationship management functions. It's a logical leap: My leadership team at Marriott has a mixture of knowledge and skills with technology, consulting, MBA and finance backgrounds. It's a business team. Anyone who wants to be the next CIO must step up, jump in and offer to help people in other areas of the company where their skills fit in. Our company expects that from us.

To support their expanded business roles, CIOs of tomorrow must create new ways of sourcing, developing and retaining top talent for their teams. Gen X and Gen Yare bringing to the workplace an intuitive grasp of technology--so much so that they will likely break most traditional business molds. That's a phenomenal power that has to be harnessed and directed in the right way to make the company grow. If we include their thinking in our business processes now, we will likely find ourselves steps ahead of our competitors.

If we want to move forward as a profession, we will heed David Packard's advice and will start building the IT organization of the future now. Otherwise, we risk waiting another 20 years to realize the next level of potential for IT in business success.

Carl Wilson is executive vice president and CIO at Marriott International, and a member of the CIO Executive Council. He was inducted into the CIO Hall of Fame in 2007.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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