It’s hard to believe that at the height of the information age, no standard credentials exist for the CIO. Other occupations involving trust and responsibility certify the credentials of their professionals, giving them both moral authority and legal rights. Without the benefit of a certified CIO (CCIO), both society and business suffer needless growth pains. For CIOs, certification will also go a long way to giving them the respect they deserve.
Lack of Respect
Twenty-five years into the information revolution and American business shows little respect for its information leaders. Often, business leaders think of CIOs as glorified programmers. Yet those same business leaders need CIOs in order to operate their companies in the 21st century. The high rate of infighting among corporate departments for IT resources demonstrates the essential nature of their services. At the same time, the high turnover rate of CIOs provides ample evidence that CIO decisions are broadly questioned. In addition, the lack of integration and the failure of standards illustrate the disrespect given to common IT principles. This is the situation at companies that have created a CTO position as a way to bypass the CIO and implement new technology at the whim of another department head.
Certifying the education and skill levels of CIOs would go a long way to fixing those problems. Certification would ensure that legal and common IT principles are understood and followed by senior executives?essential requirements both for the CEO trying to grow the company and for the litigation attorney trying to find liability for a software failure.
A CCIO title would also say a lot to the world. It would indicate that the certified professional has the required educational background and has passed a difficult exam. In addition, certification would demonstrate that a CCIO has proven records of technical achievement, leadership experience, communication skills and references. As a certificate holder, the CCIO is qualified to lead an information management department or judge the leadership of someone else heading up an IT department such as a CTO, COO or IT director. In essence, a CCIO will have a knowledge so broad and deep that he will know how to apply future technologies in pursuit of becoming an industry leader.
One cannot measure a CIO by technical, accounting or business skills alone. Therefore, to help executives, stockholders, elected officials, auditors and CIOs evaluate performance we need some guidelines by which to measure that performance. These guidelines could also serve as the source for the CCIO exam covering IT practices, personnel management, vendor selection, budgeting, legal issues and more. Similar in concept to generally accepted accounting principles for CPAs, the guidelines should outline sanctioned practices for CCIOs.
Material covered by the CCIO exam should encompass two areas: best practices and accepted principles. Best practices could cover ideas and strategies aimed at improving IT, which include managing large amounts of data or aligning IT and business. And accepted principles could address legal requirements and concepts including laws related to copyrights, employment and vendor compliance.
Certifying professionals is not a new concept. After all, doctors, lawyers, accountants, hair dressers, real estate salespeople and truck drivers all need some level of certification to do their job. It is time to certify the senior business information executive. It is time to create the CCIO. n