CIOs (Chief Information Officer) are
senior executives responsible for all
aspects of their companies' information technology and systems. They direct the use of IT to support the company's goals.
With knowledge of both technology and
business process and across-functional The Top 10 Requirements of the CIO
perspective, they are usually the Position
managers most capable of aligning the
organization's technology deployment What are the qualities of a 21st century strategy with its business strategy. CIO? Here’s a list from the viewpoint of CIOs oversee technology purchases, executive recruiter Mark Polansky, a implementation and various related managing director and member of the services provided by the information advanced technology practice of systems department. However, at many Korn/Ferry International.leading-edge organizations, the CIO
delegates many of the tactical and 10. Ability to hire, develop and retain operational issues to a "trusted high quality IT professionals.
lieutenant" in order to focus on more Surprisingly, this critical proficiency strategic concerns. is often not higher on the list of required
attributes of a great CIO, and sometimes The "information" part of the CIO's job not at all. The ability to attract, grow is increasingly important. The and groom, and hold on to excellent effective and strategic use of common employees is too often broached by me enterprise-wide information requires rather than my client, and then is it is someone with a cross-functional almost always added to the list if it was perspective. CIOs have taken a missing. Accordingly, I give high marks to leadership role in reengineering their CIO candidates who spontaneously promote organizations' business processes and and substantiate their prowess in this the underpinning IT infrastructures to area in an interview with me.
achieve more productive, efficient and
valuable use of information within the 9. International or global experience. enterprise. Many also take a leadership This item probably would not have been on role in knowledge management and the this list ten years ago. As companies from valuation of intellectual capital. all corners of the world seek to serve Similarly, CIOs are in an ideal position international outlets, and cross-border
to lead organizations' Internet and Web acquisitions become more common and initiatives. create larger global corporations, it is
frequently expected that a top CIO
CIOs usually report to the CEO, COO or possesses an appreciation of foreign CFO, and they often have a seat on the cultures and an understanding of doing executive steering committee or board business in foreign markets. Knowledge of (or at least have frequent and close a specific market, country or language is access to top officers). While the sometimes required. More generally sought
specific title CIO is generally a clear is an openness and awareness, based on indication of an IT executive's senior experience, that there are different ways rank and strategic influence, many of interacting with customers, suppliers, executives with the title VP or director partners and employees, and diverse modes of information technology, systems or of conducting business in other parts of services hold comparable positions. the world.
8. Knowledge of and experience in a
specific industry. A very common request
— sometimes the client will insist on Step Up and Lead finding individuals from their own
industry, for example banking, retailing, John J. Ciulla, chief information insurance, hospitality and the like. To officer at content management provider increase the potential candidate pool I Vignette Corp., shares his career path usually suggest consideration of
candidates with alternative experience in story.
industries with parallel business models, When I first joined the elite ranks of and the client will often expand the the basement dwellers back in 1981, the acceptable range of commerce sector term CIO didn't even exist. In fact, we experience. Occasionally a client will didn't even use the term information specifically request that a CIO candidate
—first it was data technologysearch be filled from another industry in processing, then it was management an effort to import new ideas and thinking information systems (MIS). And looking from a more progressive sector of the back, it seems like we really did spend economy.
an awful lot of time down in the
basement, just trying to keep our 7. Ability to create and manage change. network up and running. This is a very common and important
requirement since most searches are not
Even in 1993, when I landed my first CIO initiated to simply replace a CIO who has gig at Entex, our infrastructure gave me moved on. Far more of these assignments many sleepless nights. I was constantly are undertaken for newly created worrying about uptime and putting out positions in organizations that have fires. Granted, it was my first time never had a CIO, or to significantly performing the CIO role, but it seemed upgrade the post from a legacy set of like I just never had a chance to take responsibilities to a true CIO role.
off the pocket protector and become a Changing the posture of the IT function part of the culture of my company. from an operational necessity to a
strategic element is the highest priority
Yet while I may not have been able to feel here, with expectations of quantum it at the time, by then a transformation improvements in both IT planning and was beginning, and technology was execution. The ability to create change in starting to catch up to the speed of the corporation’s operating and business business. Today the systems and processes, for both efficiency and management tools out there are so good competitiveness, is also commonly sought. that to say I have nearly 100 percent Business process reengineering (BPR) and uptime doesn't seem like much of an continuous process improvement (CPI) are accomplishment. Uptime today is like on the minds of many CEOs, especially in dial tone—you simply expect it to be tougher economic conditions.
there. These days I spend less than 50
percent of my time on the traditional CIO 6. Communications skills. The ability to
task of managing information systems. intelligently articulate a strategy, an But I'm busier than ever. idea, a thought or a feeling in a clear and
appropriate manner is an absolute must. A Strategic Player Add in great listening skills as well as We all know that the role of the chief strong abilities in negotiation, information officer is dramatically persuasion, and conflict resolution. This different now from what it was 10 years requirement can encompass the written ago or even two years ago. Today's CIO word, one-to-one verbal communication, has moved out of the basement and into group ‘platform’ skills, and public the boardroom, becoming a key figure in speaking.
purchasing decisions, operational
strategy, even marketing and sales. 5. Management skills. Proficiency in
Whether we're creating the next killer directing and supervising people, app to keep our company one step ahead projects, resources, budgets, vendors,
of the competition or strategizing with and other business partners is essential. the marketing group about how to appeal Great managers are also expected to be to other IT decision makers, today the accomplished team builders, motivators, CIO is a vital piece of any company's coaches and mentors. Setting priorities, strategic puzzle. The question is, how assigning the appropriate resources do we convince our business peers of against those priorities, and delivering that? on time and on budget are always seen as
key requirements for a top CIO.
For me it all began to change during my
second stint as a CIO, at Tivoli Systems. 4. Relationship skills. From the vantage
I was more comfortable with the point of the CEO or COO searching for a challenges of the position by then, and CIO, whether for a new position or a the technology was already reliable replacement, dysfunctional connections enough to free me up for some actual and low rapport between the CIO and other
management work. C-level officers and business unit
leaders is a highly observable and all too I began to look at my IT department as common reason for failure. This an organization in and of itself. After expectation also extends to interactions
all, we had an infrastructure. We with customers, suppliers and partners. developed products. We had a plan and a Relationship building takes
strategy. We had to align ourselves with interpersonal communication to the next
the needs of our internal customers. The level by establishing and maintaining a only thing we were lacking was a strong understanding, rapport, bond and marketing and sales component. So we trust between individuals.
decided to create one and promote our
organization within the company. 3. Business savvy. In the eyes of senior
management as well as peers, the most We began a series of three six-month visible and frustrating shortcoming of campaigns to reach out from our IT group senior IT managers is a lack of
to the rest of the company with something understanding of business — both the
that everyone could relate to. Our employer’s specific area of commerce as slogan for the first campaign was, well as business in general. CIOs that "We're All in the Same Boat," and to kick don’t make a strong effort, or don’t it off, we painted a canoe with Tivoli have the capacity to develop an in-depth
colors, filled it with ice and beer, and knowledge of the industry served and the presented it to the rest of the company company’s business strategy, operating at a Friday afternoon beer bash. During model, value proposition, market position the next months we put up posters to and competition, are doomed to fail since generate awareness and excitement for they are inherently limited in the value the follow-up campaigns—"Row the Boat" that they can add to the organization’s and "Win the Race." progress and well being. Similarly, a
foundation in the principles of
In the end those campaigns were a huge accounting, finance, supply chain success for us, and they really helped management, marketing, sales and the people in my division feel like they distribution channels, both traditional were part of something unique. The and online, is necessary to succeed and effort brought us together as a team, and therefore required by senior management.
in the mid-1990s, happy employees were
a major business imperative. 2. Expertise in aligning and leveraging
technology for the advantage of the
But the campaigns were also for the folks enterprise. This requirement is always a outside the IT department. The effort cornerstone of the CIO search got people from all over the specification process. Specific facets of organization to notice who we were and technology such as ERP, Web
what we stood for within the company. I infrastructure, e-commerce, CRM, sales soon found that not only were members of force automation, data warehousing, etc., my team more satisfied with their jobs, come up frequently but are often
but I started getting invited to lead downgraded to ‘preferred’ status. Even other initiatives beyond IT, eventually less commonly required is experience with heading up the company's leadership and specific application software packages communications task force and some other such as SAP (the most requested), or any cool activities outside of the particular operating software platform
traditional CIO role. My responsibility such as UNIX, and almost never any grew, and thus I began reporting specific brand of hardware. By way of directly to the CEO. contrast, these elements were far more
frequently required of MIS Directors, the Now, not every corporate culture would previous generation of IT leaders.
allow an executive to tote a canoe full
of beer into a Friday afternoon 1. And the number one requirement for the gathering, but our campaign at Tivoli position of Chief Information Officer is: was just one example of how today's CIO Leadership. This is the quality that is is more than the alpha geek. not only in every search specification,
but most frequently comes up first and Chief information officers today are most emphatically as in, ‘What we really true C-level executives, and as such need is a leader.’ Leadership is that they are being asked to display real subjective but easily discerned quality business skills and strategic insights that sets great CIOs (and other types of
that can benefit the company as a whole. great managers for that matter) apart from The opportunities for CIOs to provide good CIOs. Leaders are special people —
new kinds of value for their visionary, passionate, inspirational, businesses—and enhance their own wise, charismatic, confident, careers in the process—are greater than influential, risk taking, encouraging, ever before. positive, reassuring, creative thinking,
goal setting, helpful, supportive,
Running the Business principled, honorable, fair and open Today at Vignette, I'm involved in many individuals. Leaders serve as role aspects of the company outside of IT. models. They stimulate ideas and they coax Since Vignette is a software maker, my the best from, and give recognition to all IT department is not only creating the those around them. Leadership is the very next killer app to drive our CRM systems best career currency one can have.
forward, but we're using our own
software. That in turn helps our sales
guys go out and prove to the world that
what we're selling works.
On the other hand, as a CIO, I'm
constantly getting spammed by
solicitations from other software
companies. Most of these e-mails and
letters are ineffective for one reason
or another, and I end up deleting dozens
of them every week. I've started talking
to our marketing folks about why that
is—I am, after all, the spammers'
target audience. By all accounts my
experience has proven invaluable to our
marketing staff, and I now meet
regularly with them to strategize and offer feedback on their approach for our company. Similarly, I've used some of my own contacts within the CIO world to help our sales guys get a foot in the door.
The extra activities have continued to grow to the point where I'm now running around quite a bit. Last week I was on the East Coast meeting with major client prospects. Next week I'm off on another,
similar junket. It's hectic but challenging, and very rewarding. I'm helping to run a business at the highest level. It's hard to believe this is the same job I had at Entex nearly 10 years ago. Today I'm all over our company and all over the country. Back then, I was
in the basement.
It's partly that technology itself has come so far—it's more reliable and more valued companywide. But it's also largely because I made a conscious effort to step out of the CIO mold and lead my organization.
The role of the chief information
officer is changing in many ways, and that's due at least in part to the fact that we are changing it. There's been a shift in perception that's opened the door for all of us to expand our responsibilities and our careers. Maybe
you won't end up wooing the company with a canoe full of beer, but with the business skills, experience and insight that CIOs possess today, there are endless opportunities for you to bring new value and new leadership to any organization.
10 Worst Mistakes a CIO Can Make
1. Reign from your office. Let your assistant book your calendar on a first come, first served basis so that you have meetings every half hour with your
direct reports and vendors. Don't listen to the little voice telling you that the majority of your time should be spent with your customers and the front line of the business. Instead, delegate those activities to your staff.
2. Be strategic, not tactical. Believe executives when they say, "We need a change-agent CIO to help lead business transformation." Dedicate all your time to leading strategic initiatives. Ignore the grumbling about your high cost structure, poor customer service and uneven operational performance.
3. Be tactical, not strategic. Believe executives when they say, "After a period of hefty IT investments, we are well positioned with our capabilities and need somebody to get the costs under control." Focus solely on operational
excellence, relying on budget
constraints to manage demand.
4. Address demand on a "you pay, we play" basis. Cash all the checks the business is willing to endorse to IT. Assume that a willingness to pay corresponds to a value proposition and that you will not
be held accountable for unrealized value and soaring operational costs.
5. Say "yes" to everything. Agree to all client requests, and trust that you can get internal supply to flex infinitely with demand by using tactics like
outsourcing, skill development and
improved processes. Ignore the fact that there is a practical limit on the number of investments that can be well managed and the amount of change a business can absorb.
6. Always say "no." Institute a
governance monarchy and appoint
yourself king. Assume that you were hired to take tough stands, and eschew the other tactics for managing demand (strategy making, senior executive governance and investment management) as inefficient.
7. Subscribe to the big bang theory of development. Ignore the mountains of research about the need for short cycle time of projects. Approach multiyear initiatives as a single project with a known destination. Assume that the business context and leadership will stay stable over the long term.
8. Treat architecture and security as outputs rather than inputs. Shape infrastructure on a project-by-project
basis, and ignore your fiduciary responsibility to leave the place in better shape than when you arrived.
9. Pretend that your organizational weeds are really untended flowers. Deal with poor-performing employees by
working around them or lowering your standards. Use outsourcing to get critical skills, and focus your in-house
resources on keeping the business running.
10. Rely solely on your gut. Support the
Balanced Scorecard approach to drive and monitor strategic change, but don't
bother putting measurement systems in place for cost and urgency reasons. Use gut and instinct as your guide, and assume that your unwritten record of accomplishments will stand on its own as
the political winds kick up dust in your direction.
CIO Executive Research Center
Resources related to the role and responsibilities of the CIO include articles, portal websites, and a career Q&A.
The State of the CIO: Salary
CIOs comfortably crack six figures but still take home a lot less than other executives.
March 1, 2002 - CIO
The State of the CIO: Skills
Successful CIOs stress business acumen, not technical expertise
March 1, 2002 - CIO
Rise to the Top: CIO's Share Their Career Paths
We talked to CIOs from a large company, a startup, a non-profit, the public
sector and a trade association about how they rose through the ranks and what it’s like to be a CIO in each of these
CIO June 01, 2001 -
The Changing Role of the Chief Information Officer
The CIO's role is growing fast in both
numbers and importance, and it is
evolving as it grows.
June 01, 1999 - CIO