What's clear is that all forward-looking CIOs--as a by-product of reaching new heights, and sometimes by design or necessity--are self-insuring against the risk that the CIO role continues to change to a point where it will be unrecognizable and require equal expertise in other functional areas, such as finance, marketing, and operations. Of all the CIOs I've researched and spoken with who've taken on more than the CIO role--or have transitioned entirely away from it--not many went back to a traditional CIO job (or at least not for long). For the rising IT leaders, will there even be a CIO role to ascend to? We aren't banking on it.
The future of the CIO position is an important factor in this discussion. With next-generation CIOs at the center of business transformation, it's a unique opportunity, a compelling and lucrative one, that's being offered right now. But how long will it last? "CIOs have the unique vantage point to see how the whole business operates and comes together," says Epstein. But he believes that eventually he'll end up in a COO or operations role. Not coincidentally, one of his mentors was a VP of operations. And perhaps not surprisingly, when the next-generation CIOs that Banerji has observed do take on more than the top IT spot, such as operations, strategy, or supply chain, there's "no looking back," he says.
All CIOs have ability to generate deep and unique understanding of the business and how it's driven, leveraging relationships, technology, processes, and information. But it's next-generation CIOs who are taking advantage of these assets, winning resources to build unique insight in the business, and taking the lead in implementing programs to capitalize on the results of their analysis. Cliché perhaps, but thought leadership, followed by a healthy dose of driven and effective leadership, is what makes next-generation CIOs successful, and lets them plow through into other executive roles.
Mykolas Rambus is the head of technology and special projects for Forbes Media in New York.
Action Plan: Become A Next-Gen CIO