The New CIO: C Stands For Change - InformationWeek

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10/2/2014
08:36 AM
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The New CIO: C Stands For Change

What does the CIO role look like now, and what will it look like in the future? Experts at Interop New York share the key skills and traits that will soon separate the winners from the losers.

IT execs love to recount an old-school joke: CIO stands for "career is over." That joke dates back to a different time, when CIOs mostly dreaded making a bad vendor choice or botching an ERP project. Today's business climate depends on speed and agility more than statesmanship -- and CIOs dread falling behind the current pace and being deemed irrelevant.

 "The C in CIO stands more for change than chief," said Jonathan Feldman, CIO of Asheville, N.C., at the InformationWeek IT Leadership Summit at Interop New York on Tuesday.

That's a useful way to start examining the future of the CIO role. The CIO must manage tremendous change coming in cloud and mobile technologies, data analysis, and BYOD -- and even bigger, more fundamental changes as companies' core business models change to a focus on digital interactions with customers and partners.

[Branding is for IT departments, too. Read 5 Steps To Build A Strong IT Brand.]

Ross Perot might call it a giant ripping sound, as companies all over the US rip up their old sales strategies and business processes and rewrite them for agile development teams and customer support teams that move at lightning speed.

What must the CIO navigating all that change bring along for the journey? For starters, the CIO must be a "master translator," says David Wright, CIO of McGraw-Hill Education, another speaker at the summit Tuesday. The CIO is the one who can fully speak the languages of the business and the technology experts, not only to get things done, but also to speak up when a real business concern looms, he says.

CIOs used to give a lot of orders. Get over it, Wright says: "It's not all about you."

PricewaterhouseCoopers chief technologist Chris Curran puts it another way: IT is becoming "consultative." PricewaterhouseCoopers data shows that between 35% and 50% of technology spend is happening outside of IT at top-performing companies, Curran says. Consult with these other business teams, or be deemed a laggard. Do technology demos often with these teams, he recommends, to build credibility, build awareness of what the IT team can do -- and build your team's business language skills. 

Wright goes as far as to teach his team not to say "IT and the business" but "IT and other parts of the business." His IT team works on every product launch as McGraw-Hill Education moves from a world built on paper textbooks to one based on software and online services for classrooms. The term "collaborative" doesn't do full justice to that kind of IT model; it's more like immersive.

Communication skills can trump pure tech skills for the future CIO. As Josh Oakhurst, chief strategy officer at Skookum Digital Works put it to the

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Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at CIO.com. Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio
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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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10/15/2014 | 2:37:45 PM
Re: The New CIO
@zerox203 is right, some CIOs learned long ago to befriend the CMO. But if you're still playing a game of "Survivor" with the CMO, it's time to think again.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2014 | 8:46:00 AM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
"Part of my position is being an agent of change": Thanks for sharing your insight, @SaneIT. Good way to put it.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 6:10:47 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
It is old-school thinking to have the CIO report to the CFO. IT leaders fought this battle in the 90's. If your CIO reports to the CFO that could be a hint that you are not in a company with a digital business mindset doing innovative work. Of course this may vary by vertical industry.

As far as not having a CIO slot at all, it is true some smaller or even midsize companies will have an IT director or a VP-level title person running IT. I hope those people would also find useful advice in this article about how to stand out as an IT leader.

 

 
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
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10/2/2014 | 4:12:34 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
I see what you're saying -- a person may be doing a CIO's job, but without that title, they have little clout with other business units. That sounds like a situation with no easy or one-size answer.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 1:41:02 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
Good points by @ddurbin1. I've heard more and more about CIOs reporting to CFOs, which doesn't make a lot of sense if you really want the CIO to be immersed across business units as an agent of change. Reporting to a CFO would stifle a CIO, no?
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 11:55:08 AM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
Do you think it's common now for CIOs to report to the CFO? 
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