CIOs Uncensored: Do You Have What It Takes To Be Tomorrow's CIO?

It's a tall order to fill. Here are some indicators of what will be required of future CIOs.

John Soat, Contributor

June 19, 2008

3 Min Read

If the question is, "do you have what it takes to be Tomorrow's CIO?" (and that is the question for aspiring business technology leaders and IT vets looking to stay relevant), the answer is, maybe not. I hate to be harsh, but it's a tall order to fill. Let's review.

In our recent InformationWeek Analytics 2008 Tomorrow's CIO Survey of 720 senior business technology executives, the following attributes were agreed on as the most desirable for future business technology leaders, and in this order: leadership, ability to execute, collaboration and communication, vision, innovation, team building, consensus building, and technical breadth and depth. Oh, and you can tack on raw intellect.

Sounds like qualities you look for in any leader, you say? Fair enough. But let's face it--it's hard to find leaders who exhibit more than two of those qualities, even the really good leaders. Now put those in the context of business technology, and things get a lot more complicated.

"First, they have to make sure they really want to be a CIO," says Steve Phillips, CIO of technology distributor Avnet. Phillips says he meets individuals who view the CIO position as simply the logical extension of the technology career path. What they don't understand is "the broader context of being a CIO," he says, the business context, how they must hone their business process skills, learn to engage with leadership, and develop their people management skills.

On the other hand, CIOs can't underestimate the technology demands. For one thing, it's a matter of credibility. "If an executive isn't seen as credible in their own function, they're not credible across the table," says Doug Tracy, executive VP of IT, North America, and global chief technology officer for Rolls-Royce. Another IT exec says he knows Fortune 50 CIOs who get calls from their CEOs having problems with their BlackBerrys. "How many CFOs get calls about their CEOs' expense reports?" he says.

Those are the challenges of today's CIO, and hard enough at that. What about Tomorrow's CIO?

"For survival, the CIO has to move up and reinvent the role," says Bruce Rogow, a consultant and researcher who knows as much as anybody about CIOs, having traveled the country interviewing a database worth of them for the last several years. "And he better reinvent it before the new boss does."

Business technology is a bet on the future, Rogow says, though many CIOs insist on viewing it as a here-and-now issue. Tomorrow's CIO has to have the tech savvy to make smart bets, the salesmanship to sell those to the organization, and the process and architecture expertise so that they make sense when--not if--business models change, along with revenue expectations and the faces at the top.

If you're interested in finding out your potential to be Tomorrow's CIO, test yourself against our online interactive tool," Tomorrow's CIO: Are You Ready Today?". Also, "Tomorrow's CIO" is the theme of our upcoming InformationWeek 500 Conference. Rub elbows with the real thing, and share experiences and challenges with a network of your peers.

Share your thoughts and experiences at our CIOs Uncensored blog.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page.

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