The secret to being a superhero CIO? A kickass sidekick

To succeed as a CIO, you need a strong lieutenant. The natural successor, the wise counsel, the ultimate assistant — here’s how to identify and groom just the right No. 2 for you.

The Lone Ranger had Tonto; Batman had Robin. And Han Solo would have been lost in space without Chewbacca.

Like those superheroes, top-notch CIOs rarely do the job alone. They need skilled lieutenants who can step in when the boss is busy wrestling bad partnerships, provide sage tactical advice behind the scenes, and keep their strategies initiatives flying in the right direction.

That's because the CIO job has gotten a lot more complex over the past decade, notes Greg Layok, senior director at West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consultancy.

Today's CIOs focus less on tactical technology and more on strategic business initiatives, he says. At the same time, though, they're still responsible for keeping the servers humming in a tech landscape that changes almost daily, with traditional silos being torn down and technology embedded throughout the organization.

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"There's the CIO's role as a pure executive, helping to run the business along with the other CxOs," he says. "Then there are the changes within IT itself, with titles breaking down and people collaborating across different functions. Having a No. 2 who can help with that, while the CIO squares off with all the other executives, is what mature organizations need."

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