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How to be the CIO of tomorrow

Tom Kaneshige | Nov. 19, 2014
What does the future CIO look like? He or she probably won’t have a technology background. However, this new kind of CIO will not only have to lead a technical staff but will also be a leader of leaders in the boardroom.

I think it's a big advantage to have a background in technology or some early career experiences, but I don't think it's necessarily a prerequisite. There are other ways to acquire that knowledge. If there is a strong IT architecture and engineering function that's been brought into the business or exists, then the CIO doesn't have to have it themselves. How can the nontechnical CIO earn the respect of the IT architecture and engineering staff?
Griffin: They would have respect if that CIO admitted to that weakness; some [CIOs] have tried to hide it or discount it as being important. But if the CIO comes out and says, "Hey, this is my background. No, I don't have that technical perspective. I'm depending on Carol or John, my design authority. This is the structure I'm putting in place to support that function. I'm going to invest in it, because it's important," then the troops will follow. The troops don't expect the CIO to have all the answers, but they expect the CIO to make the right relative resource calls to ensure that we're building a sustainable product. A Forrester report found that only one in five CIOs at Fortune 500 companies says they have the skills to build the business technology agenda. Can today's CIO successfully transition to this new role?
Griffin: That number is a little lower than I expected. But I'm not surprised that a majority feel that they're not ready. The question is, what are people prepared to do about that? If we take learning seriously and adopt customer-first thinking, then I feel confident that CIOs who have been brought up in the legacy environment and have a legacy set of skills can transition to the new digital reality.

Viewing the business through the eyes of the customer is not something that we tend to do as CIOs. We tend to spend a lot of time talking to supporting functions and internal operations. But are we prepared to take an outside-in view of the business? The typical CIO plays within a certain set of boundaries, or a box. Are we willing to step outside of that and drive cross-functional initiatives? If we stick within an IT boundary, we're going to miss the digital transformation agenda.

We've got big decisions to make in terms of: Do we buy things? Do we build things? Do we partner with folks? Traditionally, there's been a bias toward building everything. Now we're realizing that's just not possible if we're going to match the market speed that's demanded. So the ability to knit solutions together from various sources to create something of value for our customers and having the confidence to ditch some partners and go play with some others -- that's what's going to drive differentiation.


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