Digital transformation: 11 skills CIOs need to get it done

CIOs leading successful digital transformation efforts have a certain set of skills. What are the most important capabilities now?
292 readers like this.
Two workers exchanging files through video chat

7. Technology translation skills

IT leaders must also be able to translate technical jargon into business terms that matter to the C-Suite, board, and other important stakeholders. “To bring digital initiatives to scale, it is critical that companies appoint a seasoned CIO to spearhead their transformations. However, in addition to technical experience, digital leaders must also have robust business knowledge to drive strategy and align key stakeholders on common objectives,” McCaffrey says. “Such CIOs are few and far between because translating technical knowledge to investors and C-suite executives can prove quite challenging.”

[ Need to explain hybrid cloud strategy to others? Get the free eBooks, Hybrid Cloud Strategy for Dummies and Multi-Cloud Portability for Dummies. ]

8. Strategic vision

A digital transformation leader needs foresight to architect a technology-enabled direction for the business. “They need that vision to foresee where the business is/should be headed and how technology can help in this journey,” Joshi says. “With this, they can make a stronger case of getting involved in these business strategy decisions.”

9. Customer experience expertise

“The explosion of consumer technology has drastically changed expectations around tech capabilities and user experience,” Robinson says. “CIOs must take these expectations into account while also managing the more stringent requirements of enterprise technology.”

10. Comprehensive change management

Never before have employees needed to change their work lives so drastically and rapidly. Digital transformation is an upheaval that can cause fear, conflict, and turnover without the right approach. “While change management skills have generally fallen to other functions and disciplines in the past, it is now essential that senior IT leaders be well-versed and comfortable with change frameworks, communication, and management,” says Joshi.

“This is not a secondary workstream on the project plan or an HR-only responsibility. The success of the program rides on the leader’s ability to positively manage the change process.”

“Leaders need to facilitate this in a way that instills a positive attitude in employees,” notes Red Hat’s Shah. “Amplify your organization’s existing support structures such as learning, training, coaching, and mentoring systems – and ask if you need new ones. This will also mitigate the employee frustration levels that often come with the pressures of technological, process, and behavioral change happening at once.”

11. Adaptability and an eye for alignment

“Any digital transformation plans should be thoroughly vetted with the CIO to ensure alignment exists before rolling it out to the organization to allow for the greatest chance of success,” says Garthwait. Without that, the best-laid digital plans can fail before they even begin.

“CIOs have to deeply understand the strategic necessity of digital transformation for their organization, and they must be able to use their strategic management skills to adapt the transformation efforts based on feedback loops,” says Joshi. “Given the degree of uncertainty, feedback loops and adaptation are a must.”

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.