A head-hunter friend of mine has confessed that her clients, usually CEOs, find it difficult to describe the CIO they would truly like to recruit. They think they know what they want but on probing their role definition would give them only half the CIO they need. How does she resolve this? Much is left to my friend’s knowledge of the role and the candidates. She teases out the brief a little and puts candidates in front of them who meet the specification and more. The CEO develops his/her vision as the process goes on.
Despite high churn in both roles the majority of CEOs will only go through this process every five years or so and often less frequently. They have such little appreciation of what a good CIO can bring to the business how can they know what they need? How would they know what they think they need is not dangerously outmoded? How would they realize if they are preventing their current IT executive from doing the more valuable job they claim they want doing? Perhaps you know people in this position?
When we asked CEOs questions a little closer to home (how do you see the future of your business over 5-10 years). We were able to elicit their major needs. First, they have to live with continual and accelerating rates of change. Dealing with this change, whether it is in markets, technology or internal operations requires a culture of agility and flexibility across the enterprise. Learning will have to be continual to achieve this, information must be shared and knowledge managed and leveraged. The willingness of people to respond to change will be the key element of agility so they want a CIO who is prepared to embrace change as a path to the future..
Even more important, they need to understand when a response is needed, to know when agility has to come into play. They must be able to translate signals and identify their implications from the mass of information out there. They need lower latency and integrated information delivered in highly flexible forms to help them understand what is happening in the enterprise. The CIO has to deliver this capability. Active monitoring of worldwide technical best practice is becoming more demanding and more important. Successful translation also requires complete knowledge of the workings of the internals of the business.
Their third major need is to have growing confidence in the use and integration of information and technology in their businesses. Competence and comfort with information and its associated technical disciplines will become integral to the personal skill base of the modern executive. This can be seen either as a threat or an opportunity to the modern CIO.
Two key roles of today’s CIO are implementing change and educating their business colleagues. These are critical but transitory as business executives gear themselves up for the future. CIOs may be a catalyst for change today but will not be needed in that role in the future. The CIO roles will revert to technology policymaking, delivery and systems strategy with the vital new role of technology translator. Are you ready for this world? It may be what your CEO really wants whether or not he knows how to describe it.
Contact Brinley Platts on 07973 745 640 at CIODEVELOPMENT.COM to find out how you can engage your colleagues and team on the issues raised by this article.