by CIO Staff

State of the CIO 2008: What Kind of CIO Are You?

Dec 04, 20075 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Map your skills to our template; see if you're in the right place at the right time. Plus, advice for Function Head, Transformational Leader and Business Strategist CIOs.


Based on the data compiled by the “State of the CIO” survey and insights from the CIO Executive Council, we can make a set of recommendations to leaders who want to match their focus and skills to the needs of their business now and going forward.

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A parallel set of recommendations applies for companies that want to gain the value that each type of CIO is suited to bring—particularly the Transformational Leader and Business Strategist CIO (see “What Kind of CIO Does Your Company Need?”).

1. Know yourself. Determine what kind of CIO you are based on the activities you currently spend most of your time on:

Function Head

  • Managing IT crises
  • Developing IT talent
  • Improving IT operations
  • Improving system performance
  • Security management
  • Budget management

Transformational Leader

  • Redesigning business processes
  • Aligning IT initiatives and strategy with business goals/strategy
  • Cultivating the IT/business partnership
  • Leading change efforts
  • Implementing new systems and architecture
  • Mapping IT strategy to overall enterprise strategy

Business Strategist

  • Developing/refining business strategy
  • Understanding market trends
  • Developing external customer insight
  • Developing business innovations
  • Identifying opportunities for competitive differentiation
  • Reengineering or developing new sales and distribution channels

2. Know your skills. Determine if you have strengths in the executive leadership competencies that map most closely to the activities you are engaged in (the competencies that are underlined below). (See definitions for each competency in the list above.) If you have a need to develop in a particular competency, seek executive coaching and mentoring:

Function Head

  • IT function expertise
  • Team leadership
  • People and organizational development
  • Results orientation

Transformational Leader

  • Change leadership
  • Collaboration and influence
  • Strategic orientation
  • IT function expertise
  • Team leadership
  • People and organizational development
  • Results orientation

Business Strategist

  • Commercial orientation
  • Market knowledge
  • External customer focus
  • Change leadership
  • Collaboration and influence
  • Strategic orientation
  • IT function expertise
  • Team leadership
  • People and organizational development
  • Results orientation

3. Are you in the right place at the right time? Determine whether the activities you are engaged in (and thus the type of CIO you are) map to the current needs of your business. If not, reevaluate your actions or the fit between you and your business. Here is a starter checklist:

IT Organization Needs

  • Chaotic IT organization needs fundamental rebuilding, cost discipline and right sizing—Function Head
  • Systems performance needs major improvement—Function Head
  • Security and compliance need to be addressed—Function Head
  • Outdated IT skills and processes need modernizing—Function Head or Transformational Leader
  • Adequately functioning IT organization needs major strategic realignment with business goals—Transformational Leader

Business Needs

  • Departmental and enterprise processes need to be reengineered and optimized for efficiency, effectiveness and/or growth—Transformational Leader
  • New architecture standards and enterprise-level systems need to be implemented to support business growth and other goals—Transformational Leader
  • IT and its business partners need to change the way they work together to create and execute the project portfolio—Transformational Leader
  • The business needs IT to envision and enable new market opportunities—Transformational Leader or Business Strategist
  • The business needs more sources of innovation—Business Strategist
  • The business strategy team needs a representative from IT to help envision new ways to achieve business goals—Business Strategist
  • The business strategy team needs a leader who can interpret market trends and how they can be exploited or shaped by technology—Business Strategist
  • The business needs to exploit new technologies that make possible new types of competitive differentiation/advantage—Business Strategist

4. Map priorities to needs. Check that your management and technology priorities for the coming year map to the goals of the enterprise for the IT organization and for the business at large. Check that your expectation for the areas and processes that IT will impact in the coming year match the needs of the business.

5. Gain control of the IT purse strings. Transformational Leaders should have a comparatively larger budget for the serious changes that you will be leading. Business Strategist CIOs should have central control over all IT spending to avoid turf battles, maximize spending efficiency and allow funding for innovation pilots.

6. Get correct positioning. Business Strategist or Transformational CIOs should insist on a participatory seat at the executive table and engage fellow executives informally in executive discourses, which is when the decisions are really made. Business Strategists should report to the CEO or president. Transformational CIOs should report to the CEO, president, or chief operating, chief process or strategy officers.

7. Get face time. Business Strategists should set the expectation that they will spend formal and informal time with other executive officers. Transformational CIOs should spend time with business unit heads and owners of cross-enterprise processes such as supply chain.

8. Plan for the future. Businesses go through cycles, and needs can change profoundly in as little as two years. The executive team should look to the future and try to predict when its needs will shift. This is particularly important for organizations that need a Function Head CIO to fix problems today, but will likely need a more strategic CIO to create advantages for it later. You may be perfect for the former role, but are your skills and experience in place to play the latter role? If not, can you hone those competencies in preparation? Do you need to convince your business that you should begin expanding your role toward the strategic even if the need is not yet apparent? This may be the hardest challenge of all, but it’s a challenge that most CIOs face as they seek to evolve their role toward the future state of the position.

Those CIOs and companies that want to see the CIO position take on the role of Business Strategist as defined in this report can use this simplified list as shorthand when considering changes to the responsibility and focus of the role.