What does it take to be a successful CIO?

The CIO role requires an unusual ability to be both a big picture strategist and an execution oriented leader who can pay attention to details. It also helps to be surrounded by good people with a diverse skillset.

As part of my role as the Chairman of The CIO Initiative, I have been organizing a conference specific to the needs and interests of the CIO. The conference's purpose is to facilitate discussions around current topics of concern for CIOs as well as share CIO experience and knowledge on what has enabled them to be successful.

As part of the process of pulling together the speakers and agenda, I have talked to many CIOs about their interests and concerns. These conversations are wonderfully insightful and have led to the development of some really interesting panel discussions and presentations. I wanted to highlight a few of these topics, as I think their insights are important to share. I also wanted to gather input from the greater community.

One of the challenges of the future CIO is to be both a business leader who is an advocate for technology while also being responsible for the oversight of the IT organization. This can be quite the challenging role. It requires someone who can:

  1. Understand in depth their industry and how their particular business operates.
  2. Advocate for ways technology and information can be applied to lead the company in new directions or compete at a level not previously achieved.
  3. Oversee the execution of IT Strategic plans and day-to-day operations.

However, even the most visionary and insightful business leader CIO can lose respect of their business and employees if the IT organization does not function well.

Something as simple as poor customer service at the Service Desk can be an Achilles heel to a strategic leader. It is the same with IT requests that take longer than expected to complete. It creates a negative perception of the IT Department and then business leaders begin to question if the IT Organization can be relied upon as a strategic asset.

So how is a CIO supposed to be able to achieve such tremendous goals?

Obviously, a CIO role is not for everyone. It requires an unusual ability to be both a big picture strategist and an execution oriented leader who can pay attention to details. It also helps to be surrounded by good people with a diverse skillset.

I am an advocate for good discipline in the IT Organization that addresses issues with customer service while achieving the goals of the IT Strategy. I believe applying solid governance will help maintain the success of the organization on a day-to-day basis while assisting prioritize innovation efforts with the business. Strong governance practices are readily available leveraging frameworks and best practices such as ITIL, CoBIT, PMBOK, etc. Establishing stable processes, properly training people in well established roles and responsibilities, managing metrics, and providing keen management oversight will keep an organization running well and quickly highlight the areas that need improvement. If done well this will keep IT Operations and projects running smoothly while fostering innovation.

I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and insights on what you think it takes to be a successful CIO and manage the multifaceted responsibilities of this type of dynamic leader. In a future article, I will provide information on what was discussed at the conference, the input I have received from readers, and the continued conversations I am having within the CIO community.

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