This question is a perennial. As far back as 1999 I was speaking to a group of IT Directors in our IS Leaders Academy Programme when I suggested that it was time they adopted a new, differentiated job title, Chief Information Officer. They liked it and adopted it and I was invited onto many platforms over the subsequent 2-3 years to explain the difference in skills, experience and role.
The term had been around in the US much longer, indeed CIOs over there were undifferentiated from Heads of IT over here. IT Director was a term invented to create the initial differentiation in the early 1990s, for IT leaders with operating board aspirations, but within the decade it had become devalued. The same is happening to CIO, I’m surprised it has lasted so long. I can already see CDO (whether digital or data) lurking in the wings.
The moral is, don’t get hung up on job titles. There is no internationally recognised job spec for a CIO, much less any move towards a standardised qualification. If you want to know what CIOs need to be able to do you should speak to the head hunters. I speak to them all the time. This is what I hear, in brief:
- You must be a well-developed human being, with interpersonal skills of a high order, self-confident with a good EQ. Call this strong leadership capability; you will be leading your organisation through significant technology disrupted change and you must be strong enough for other C-suite executives not to push you around.
- You must behave as a business leader first; whatever technical skills and experience you have to offer are hygiene. You must have them, but they really are not a career differentiator. You must have good stakeholder management and good communication skills, a political nous and an opinion that matters to people.
- For a short-time only, you must be on top of digital. In many ways this is the latest of a long-line of technology drivers that have impacted business, but we appear finally to have reached a global tipping point. Now everyone is on the bus at home, at work and at play. Everyone has an opinion, every industry is at risk. You must have the knowledge and speak it with authority.
So where does this leave an ambitious young technology executive like yourself? Everything we offer in CIO Development impacts CIO performance in one or more of these critical areas. We have re-introduced leadership skills development through the CIO Mentoring Scheme, we offer world-class business education through the CIO Pocket MBA programme, and we are leading IT executives rapidly up the digital learning curve through our Digital Academy Programme. In all this work we are faced with 10 men to every two women.