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The Rise of the CIO MBA

There was a time not so long ago when CIOs needed only to keep the lights on and the wheels turning. But that is not to say that such were easy or mindless tasks. Quite often CIOs were the creators of legacy systems and the impetus for many of the commercial and cloud solutions we have today. With the changes in technology came changes in the CIO’s role too, including stronger ties to the business and a seat at the boardroom table. Now CIOs must up their game in business acumen again, becoming effectively a CIO MBA.

One of the things that makes a CIO most effective is their ability to bridge the gap between the technologists and the business leadership teams,” says Michael Macrie, CIO and Vice President of Land-o-Lakes. “To do that I set out very early in my career to invest in getting an MBA and invest in my business skills so I could at least speak the same language as CFOs and the CEOs. And that helped tremendously.”

Business finance experience is a big plus

It also helps to have hands-on experience in the financial end of the business before taking the top CIO seat. Macrie, for example, came into Land-o-Lakes as a P&L IT leader responsible for accounting the profits and losses across two divisions.

I was solely responsible for the cost centers which reported into those two businesses and I sat on their leadership teams,” he said. “Every month we did our normal business reviews. We looked at the revenues, the losses, the profits, the costs and I had to present every week where we were on our cost structure, what goals we were hitting for that cost and price points and what areas we weren't. So having that P&L experience I think is very important for anyone aspiring to be a CIO.”

On-the-job MBA training grooms future IT leaders

Of course it may not be practical or possible to take this precise career path or to require it from IT workers seeking to become CIO one day. To address the situation and still turn out top-notch business trained, tech leaders, Land-o-Lakes developed a unique training environment.

Some of the things that we're doing at Land-o-Lakes to help our technology leaders become true business leaders and business partners is offering them executive education and executive coaching to develop their influence skills and a number of other business skills,” says Macrie. “In addition to that, we're looking to put into place a sponsored MBA program for a lot of our technology people to help them get the external academic skills that are also necessary to be successful.”

CIO MBA embodies fusion of business and tech sides

And why is all this effort expended towards training the technologically gifted in the art and science of business? Because CIOs can fuel the business in more efficient ways than less tech-savvy C-Suite members can.

Indeed, CIOs stand at the helm of the business now and are no longer confined to the engine room. They are there not just to bridge the gap between technology and business, but to embody that fusion.

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