What Makes For A Good CIO? - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
8/14/2007
05:04 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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What Makes For A Good CIO?

Anyone wanting to be a CIO should have his or her head examined. To judge from a recent CIO appointment, it might help!

Anyone wanting to be a CIO should have his or her head examined. To judge from a recent CIO appointment, it might help!In the ongoing discussion over what sort of background makes for a good CIO, let me offer exhibit #249: Dr. Priscilla Hancock.

Earlier this month, the University of Louisville announced that it had appointed a new CIO. According to a statement by the university, "Priscilla Hancock, vice chancellor for information technology for the University of Alabama system, will assume the post of vice president for information technology and chief information officer, pending Board of Trustees' approval."

According to the statement, "Hancock has bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in experimental psychology."

University Provost Shirley Willihnganz said, "Dr. Hancock brings an impressive record of administrative experience in information technology." Hancock began her information technology career as a statistical consultant at the University of Kansas. She then worked in IT at the University of Texas at Austin, Vanderbilt University, and Western Michigan University, before going to the University of Alabama in 1997.

"Computer applications are an integral part of experimental psychology," Hancock said, by way of explanation, "so I've been working with computers since 1978."

A background in psychology could have obvious benefits in the CIO position. I will avoid references to "Doctor, heal thyself!" when it comes to help desk resources, but anyone who thought being a CIO was more about managing conflicting personalities and less about managing technology has a real world example to point to.

Just as an aside -- and not to put too fine an academic point on it -- I'd like to mention that Hancock is assuming the IT leadership position at the University of Louisville from an individual who took over as acting head of IT last year, when the previous CIO left. That person's name: Tom Sawyer.

"Tom has done a remarkable job in a very limited amount of time," Willihnganz said. "He is a true professional, and the university is indeed fortunate to have him on staff.""

If he doesn't light out for the territories, that is. Now it will be Hancock's job to get her people busy whitewashing the fence -- technology-wise, of course. That's where the psychology comes in.

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