How Tech Savvy Does A CIO Need To Be? - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
6/10/2008
08:57 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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How Tech Savvy Does A CIO Need To Be?

One of the areas explored in our upcoming feature story and analytical report, "Tomorrow's CIO," has to do with just how technical CIOs will need to be in the future. Will technology expertise be off-loaded, or will CIOs still need to call the shots, systems- and software-wise?

One of the areas explored in our upcoming feature story and analytical report, "Tomorrow's CIO," has to do with just how technical CIOs will need to be in the future. Will technology expertise be off-loaded, or will CIOs still need to call the shots, systems- and software-wise?"There's a foundational layer of IT knowledge, background, ability" that CIOs need to maintain, says Doug Tracy, executive VP for IT for North American, and global chief technology officer, for Rolls Royce plc. "That's table stakes for any CIO," he says.

That includes the latest technologies, what they're capable of, utilizing vendors, and knowledge of core IT functions. However, CIOs need to maintain that knowledge "mainly for the sake of credibility," Tracy says. "If an exec isn't able to be seen as credible in their own function, they're not credible across the table" with other high-level executives, he says.

As IT becomes more pervasive in business, the CIO will become more of a business leader and less of a technology manager. That very pervasiveness will make technical depth less important to the CIO role than the business insight necessary to exploit ubiquitous technology to its greatest advantage. Also, trends like cloud computing will make organizations less dependent on CIOs for infrastructure expertise.

Prediction #1 from Tracy: "IT will continue to permeate almost all aspects of the organization." Prediction #2: "The CIO will be less involved in technical details," he says.

Maybe that's why, surprisingly, in our survey of more than 700 corporate managers and CIOs and VP-of-IT-level executives, only half of the tech execs identified "technical breadth and depth" as a key CIO attribute. On the other hand, two-thirds of the corporate managers think it's important.

So does that mean, in the future, CIOs will need to know less about IT? Or will they still need to be fluent in tech, they'll just deal with it on a more abstract level?

What do you think? Where do you see the CIO role evolving in terms of technical depth and breadth?

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