CIO View: You don't have to live and breathe IT here, but it helps

In a recent article, IT head-turned-recruiter Alan Mumby suggested that appointment boards are looking for CIOs who have no inherent interest in IT. It may sound strange that IT bosses shouldn't have a passion for the work that their department does, but Mumby points out that recruiters are looking for CIOs that only see technology for what it can do for business, not a thing of beauty in its own right.

Does this mean the job of CIO isn't open to dyed-in-the-hide techies?

On the whole, CIOs tend to agree with the spirit of what Mumby is saying, but with the reservation that to deploy effective IT into a business, the IT leader has to have as in-depth an understanding of the capabilities of the technology – something that rarely comes without a little time on the shop-floor.

Here are the responses from some of the CIOs and other IT leaders who read the article:

A successful CIO needs to have a combination of strategic understanding, insight as to how their business really operates and a feel for end-user behaviour.

An overly technical CIO can be at risk of implementing technology that has a great spec sheet but is either irrelevant to users' day-to-day lives or too difficult to use.

CIOs need to be able to put themselves into shoes of their customers, business units and the individual and make sure that they have the tools that they need to succeed.

This means you need to be able to step back and observe how individuals and organisations are relating to IT services, rather than worrying about the detail of how the IT services are delivered.
Richard Wilson, director of IT service & operations at Cable&Wireless Worldwide

CIOs need to have a passion for driving a business forward through the effective use of IT. And, in that sentence, Business comes before IT.

The board will be looking first to see that they have an equal business partner but will quickly expect a creditable solution.

An effective CIO cannot be wholly business or IT focussed but must understand both sufficiently to be the originator of the innovation.

However, the IT knowledge will have been acquired through being at the sharp end as an apprenticeship before then moving into being a business domain expert; for me that is the perfect mix as anything else is not well balanced.
Jon Baker, director of business technology for media distribution & consumer products licensing at The Walt Disney Company Europe, Middle East & Africa

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