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Millennials want to be digital entrepreneurs, not CIOs

Clint Boulton | April 11, 2016
Despite the rising popularity in digital transformations, one college professor says his students want no part of the CIO role, let alone IT.

A lot can change, of course, for these undergraduates Davenport is mentoring between the time they are in school and when they land in their first jobs. Most CIOs fall into their jobs, often rising through IT or business group ranks to reach the top spot. And many who do are hardly technologists but rather business executives with technology backgrounds.

CIOs role becoming more business-focused

CIOs say their roles are much more about business strategy than technology. World Bank CIO Stephanie von Friedeburg says that the CIO role at large businesses involves bringing technology to bear on strategy and collaborating across the enterprise's business lines. CIOs must communicate with boardsand accept more governance responsibilities. While such functions may not appeal to hardcore technologists, they certainly appeal to business-minded executives, she says.

“I actually think the CIO role is becoming a more interesting role for people who have the business background, the finance background and interest in the strategic linkage between what the organization is trying to do and how does the technology get them there," von Friedeburg says. Proper execution of these tasks requires CIOs to learn all aspects of the business, including what customers expect.

Von Friedeburg says she knows how every business process runs at the bank and has the biggest budget with which to work. She knows how a loan gets processed, how the bank moves money and how HR processes new hires. She sees where things work, or don't, and where she needs to make changes. In no other role at World Bank would this be possible.

John Shaffer, CIO of financial advisory Greenhill Partners, says that technologists might be able to throw together a software-defined network or implement a CRM system but can they get it to work efficiently to best serve the business? He says the most successful CIOs today, while maybe not as technical as those from the past, have a deep understanding of what the business needs.

"There's tons of good technology but you need it to drive it from what business people are looking for to solve problems," Shaffer told Plus, there's "always going to be new challenges and the CIO has to figure out what those are," he says.

For those reasons, Elaine Cheng, CIO of CFA Institute, says the role remains the most exciting role one in the organization, enabling it to grow a deep bench of future CIOs hailing from different business groups in organizations. “CIOs still get the opportunity to work across divisions, innovate with their business partners and are in the center of transformations. We spend our days thinking about how to grow our business through technology," Cheng adds.


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