The CIO today, whether that person is new to a company or just a new CIO, has to be able to perform in three distinct areas.
1. Striking a balance between business and technology
This balance means you need to be an expert translator on understanding the business, understanding the technology, and being able to translate the two together. You need to answer questions like these:
- How do I solve business problems with technology?
- How do I drive the business forward?
- How do I align an IT organization?
- How do I align IT to deliver the appropriate services that the company wants?
All this is technology-based, and needs to be.
2. Generating revenue for the company
I also believe a CIO should be held accountable to generate revenue, just like a salesperson. Granted, you need a special organization, and a special culture, even a special kind of CEO, to be able to do that, and a level of maturity in IT. So if you’re having problems with email, you should not be focusing on generating revenue.
But conceptually, you should be able to take the technology and leverage it to generate revenue for the company, just like a Google does. When you do, that sets a very different tone for how a CIO thinks and operates, and what the priorities are.
3. Managing more dramatic change
Technology is changing more rapidly than it has in a long time. And it’s not that it’s changing faster, rather the changes are more dramatic. Data center to cloud is a more dramatic change than just the virtualization of a data center was. It’s a change from internal to mobile. It’s a change from virtualization to cloud. A lot of success metrics used to be based on how we did better inside our companies – how we do package scripts better, how we connect the network more effectively, etc. Now it’s much bigger.
As a result, the CIO needs to be technical enough that they’re able to guide their teams, not just in business alignment, but in the technology strategy as well. I don’t think you’re able to do the CIO job today without a balance of pretty strong technology. That doesn’t mean you have to have been a developer. I think it means you have to know how technologies work, and can be applied, in order to get to where you want to go.
At the risk of oversimplifying it, today’s CIO has to give people a comfortable and efficient environment so that they become productive and stay productive. And as the lines between our business and personal lives continue to blur, that means this environment has to exist everywhere.
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