I\u2019ve been thinking a lot lately about CIOs and the skills they need to be successful during the age of information. \u00a0My quest is the definitive \u201cTen Critical Competencies of the Modern CIO,\u201d and I\u2019m getting there.\n\n\nMy conversation with Steve Little, CIO of Xerox, was particularly helpful in this regard.\u00a0 Little has been a CIO for more than 20 years, and through a discussion we had a few weeks ago, I was able to put some key competencies on the list.\n\n\nThe Ability to Make the Complex Simple\n\n\nIn 2012, Carol Zierhoffer, CIO of Xerox, called Little, with whom she had previously worked with at ITT.\u00a0 Xerox was struggling with a European ERP rollout, and Zierhoffer asked Little to head over to Europe to see what was wrong.\n\n\n\u201cI\u2019m a simple guy,\u201d says Little. \u201cAnd the only way for me to understand a problem is to break it down into its smallest parts.\u00a0 When I showed up in the U.K., I asked the business sponsor to show me the architecture, and what I saw was very complicated.\u00a0\n\n\nBusiness leaders at Xerox, says Little, were so focused on the complexity of the Xerox business \u2013 including licensing arrangements, a global supply chain and distribution nuances, that they wound up with a set of business processes that mitigated the benefits of an ERP.\n\n\nLittle commuted to London for six months and led the program to a successful implementation, and in 2013, when Zierhoffer left Xerox to become CIO of Bechtel, Little was hired as Xerox\u2019s new CIO.\u00a0\n\n\nOnce he took on the CIO role, Little had six weeks to develop and present a comprehensive IT strategy to the executive committee.\u00a0 Having learned that Xerox has not traditionally had an appetite for long-term ERP projects, Little had to find a new way to modernize the applications portfolio. \u201cWe needed a pragmatic approach to develop an IT strategy for our legacy business -- our printers and copiers -- for a market that is not growing,\u201d says Little. \u201cSo I asked the simple question: How do we take a diverse applications portfolio, and move to more common global platforms in such a way that we are not signing up for a multi-year project? How do we build a roadmap that lets us make decisions along the way, but in a phased approach, where each phase drives business value?\u201d \u00a0\u00a0\n\n\nLittle decided that the best, simplest solution was to leverage the modern platforms that were already in place. This meant taking Oracle, which was running in the US, and making it the global platform for the direct to consumer business and taking SAP, which was running in Europe, and make it the global platform for the indirect sales business.\n\n\nSix weeks later, Little presented this strategy to the executive committee, and at the end of the meeting, Ursula Burns, CEO, congratulated Little on his work. \u201cWhen I communicate IT to any audience, I use the simplest approach,\u201d says Little. \u201cMy approach is to dissect complex architectures and complex business structures and articulate them at a level that everyone can understand. \u00a0Good communication is not just about being able to speak well, it\u2019s about being able to understand when people don\u2019t get it, and continuing to simplify until they do.\u201d\n\n\nThe Courage to Operationalize Your Horizontal View\n\n\nSometimes CIOs remind me of the Greek mythological figure, Cassandra, who had the power of prophecy but the curse of never being believed. While every other executive is looking at his or her vertical piece of the pie, it is only the CIO who can see across the organization in a horizontal view.\u00a0 The problem, of course, is that the power to see the horizontal view does not always bring with it the power to operationalize that view.\u00a0\n\n\nXerox\u2019s legacy business is organized by line-of-business, but Little\u2019s strategy is to drive horizontal solutions. As CIO, the price of entry is to see the benefits of a horizontal view; but the critical competency is in having the courage to operationalize that view.\u00a0\u00a0 \u201cAs CIO, you need to be courageous and confident that what you are doing is right,\u201d says Little. \u201cThe more we try to satisfy everybody, the harder it is to be successful.\u201d\n\n\nThe Ability to Garner CEO Support\n\n\nGarnering your CEO support may be the most critical CIO skill of all.\u00a0 Developing and deploying an IT strategy is really about driving operational change.\u00a0 How can you build an integrated data strategy and deploy an ERP if everyone hasn\u2019t bought into the change? If the CIO is not anointed by the CEO as someone with the authority to drive operational change, he will have a tough time overcoming resistance, when the resistance is particularly high.\u00a0\n\n\nBut how do you get support from your CEO?\u00a0 For Little, it began with making sure that his CEO had a good understanding of the IT strategy.\n\n\nWhen Little took on the CIO role at Xerox, CEO Ursula Burns asked, \u201cWhat do you want from me?\u201d\u00a0 Little requested that she understand the IT strategy well enough to be comfortable with what he was proposing. Shortly after Little had presented the IT strategy to the executive committee, he had to present it to the Board in just 15 minutes.\u00a0 During that presentation, when Board members asked questions about the IT strategy, Little found that Burns was stepping in to answer some of them.\u00a0 \u00a0With the CEO knowing enough to engage in Board level discussions of Xerox\u2019s IT strategy, Little knew that he \u00a0had her support.\n\n\nTo my mind, making the complex simple, operationalizing your horizontal view, and garnering of your CEO\u2019s support are critical competencies of the modern CIO, but there is so much more. Watch this blog, over the next few months, as I add more items to the list.\n\n\nAbout Steve Little and Xerox\n\n\nStephen Little is Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Xerox. He was named to this position in January 2014 and appointed a vice president of the corporation at that time.\n\n\nAs CIO, Little is responsible for the global IT strategy and program execution, information security, governance processes and delivery of the IT infrastructure across the company. In addition, he brings a sharp focus on infrastructure simplification and disciplined execution to his organization, providing IT solutions that deliver value and keep business operations running smoothly.\n\n\nPrior to becoming the global CIO, Little was the vice president of Program Assurance for Xerox. In that position, he led a highly skilled team who consulted with business leaders to solve challenging technical problems and expedited the completion of complex IT programs.\n\n\nLittle has spent his career leading large IT organizations within multibillion-dollar corporations, including former roles as the director of Infrastructure Services for ITT and as the senior vice president and Chief Information Officer for Schneider Electric. During more than 20 years at Schneider, he held a variety of IT leadership positions and supported business teams all over the world to standardize and simplify IT, enterprise wide.\n\n\nLittle received a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Management from Purdue University and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.\n\n\nFor more than a half a century, Xerox has been a leader in document technology and services. Xerox continues to build on this heritage of innovation. It now is the world\u2019s leading enterprise for business process and document management, offering global services from claims reimbursement and automated toll transaction to customer care centers and HR benefits management. The new Xerox is dedicated to innovation, service and giving our customers the freedom to focus on what matters most: your real business.