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Tomorrow's CIO: Biz Cred Counts

With today's economic convolutions, it goes without saying that CIOs and tech leaders need a firm grounding in business and finance, and that will only increase in importance in the future. How firm a grounding? Here's a hint: Look around for a business unit that needs management help.
With today's economic convolutions, it goes without saying that CIOs and tech leaders need a firm grounding in business and finance, and that will only increase in importance in the future. How firm a grounding? Here's a hint: Look around for a business unit that needs management help.Business management experience is a must for any IT person looking to make the move to CIO, as indicated by a data point in our Tomorrow's CIO Analytics Report. Only a very small percentage of respondents to our survey feel that top-level business experience outside IT isn't important to future CIOs and tech leaders, while the majority feel that running a business unit -- not IT related -- is at least valuable, if not critical.

How important will it be for future CIOs to have experience running a business unit outside of IT?

Very important: 36% Valuable, but not critical: 58% Not important: 6%

Data: InformationWeek Analytics 2008 Tomorrow's CIO Survey of 720 senior business technology executives

Scan the resumés of many of today's leading CIOs and you'll find business experience there somewhere. Ralph Szygenda, CIO of General Motors, points with pride to his experience at the beginning of his career as a salesman of mainframe computer systems. It not only taught him about computers, it taught him the fundamentals of business and corporate finance.

The key: Be proactive. "You can't be afraid to try something you haven't done before," says Stephen Pickett, past president of the Society for Information Management and current chairman of the SIM Foundation. He's also the CIO of Penske. "Volunteer for assignments out of your comfort zone, out of your theater of influence," he says. "That's how you get noticed."

"Tomorrow's CIO" is the theme of our upcoming InformationWeek 500 Conference, Sept. 14-16 in Monarch Beach, Calif. Rub elbows with many high-powered tech leaders, and hear panel discussions with top CIOs like Tim Stanley of Harrah's Entertainment and Randy Mott of Hewlett-Packard. You can register for the conference here.

Here's a video of Ralph Szygenda talking about the capabilities Tomorrow's CIO will need.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing