Thursday, July 11, 2013

What are Qualities and Skill Set to Fill CIO Role

Besides as Chief Information Officer, CIOs today are Chief Influence Officers, Chief Innovation Officers, and Chief Insight Officers.

CIOs today need to play a different role and wear multiple hats, therefore, they come from different background, take diverse career path, there’s no one size fitting all skill or stereotypical image to portray a modern CIO, however, there are certain leadership qualities and desired skill set to fill the role.

  1. Visionary CIOs is needed: CIOs have to be able to infect and encourage with his/her vision and generate conviction and enthusiasm for the missions of the company and the IT division, regardless of how exciting or mundane they may be. As a leader, A CIO needs to be a good communicator, a good facilitator, a good listener, and a good collaborator. To be effective, the CIO has to collaborate with the business teams, and must be able to educate as well as learn from other leaders within and outside the company as well as direct reports. The CIO has to be the technical visionary of the company so s/he has to be able to not only articulate the vision but communicate it in various forms and forums, including investor relations, business partners, business leaders, IT personnel, the other CxOs in the company, etc. 
  1. A Business Strategist is needed: The CIO has to be able to navigate the business objectives and corporate strategy, and lead the creation and execution of the corresponding technical strategy for the company. A lot depends on the corporate structure and the culture of the company here. If the corporate leadership is not open and receptive to technical innovation, and not accustomed to engaging the CIO in corporate strategic planning, then it could be a challenging. In a progressive company that embraces technology and value information, and then a highly strategic and innovative CIO will fit in. If the company leadership does not see value in technology, and just wants to keep IT costs down to a bare minimum, then a CIO who is experienced in tactical efforts and cost containment would be a better fit. 
  1. A Problems Solver is needed: It does not necessarily mean CIOs will solve every problem on his/her own, it’s more about the ability to think analytically and synthetically to manage business solution via high-performance IT team; the strong business orientation & ability to bring the benefits of IT to solve business issues; the ability to align the business requirement with the IT capacity, which means that he/she is able to constantly and dynamically lead an IT structure that will seamlessly support the business and well ahead of the business requirement; the ability to interact with business on their processes and pain areas, the ability to bring out a technology driven solution, driving adoption of applications (though part of change management, the most difficult piece), be the spinal cord for the organization - integrating various departments, to simplify & unify processes across functional boundaries, and often across the entire enterprise. This requires an unprecedented level of collaboration with the line managers and business units who own those processes. 
  1. A Specialized Generalist is needed: CIOs are business generalists with T-shape IT knowledge, speaking 'business' and 'technology' dialects fluently, translating from one to the other seamlessly. CIOs need to develop a broad skill set beyond technology. Among other skills, A good enterprise architecture grounding, a solid understanding of the application of technology in general. CIOs also need keen organizational skills; management ability to centralize IT resources and applications and coordinate business-unit resources and initiatives; understanding the business goals and knowing to implement the right solutions to achieve them. After all, they are Chief Information Officers, responsible for providing correct information in the correct manner to the right people. 
  1. Different ‘Flavors’ of CIOs are needed: An “insider” CIO with vertical experience may bring certain industrial expertise and domain sufficiency; while an “outliner,” "fresh blood" scenario where a CIO is brought in from outside the vertical industry to reinvigorate an IT organization. Sometimes organizations go stale and need the so-called "shot in the arm" of someone who thinks different – take customer’s view or connect dots of innovation. In either case,  the CIO has to be flexible, adaptable, learning agile and able to adjust the lingo to suit the audience, sometimes soften it up and drop the technical jargon, other times diving into the bits and bytes level.  
  1. A business leader is needed: Broadly speaking, the CIO is a leadership position. CIOs should have great leadership traits, understand business, understand the business process, understand the latest technology, motivate IT Team...
1) Business Communication: CIOs must be able to relay complex technical ideas in a non-technical manner to business leaders.
2) Quick Action and Change: Change is nature of IT and business today
3) Harmonious and Fair Temperaments: Technology has played a large role in the diversification of the modern workforce, but with increased diversity comes increased discord. The leader needs to have the ability to inspire & create the culture of innovation and change.
4) Global Outlook: With the advent of the Internet, nearly any company can be global, which brings fierce competitions, different cultures and customs, multiple technologies and significant business opportunities.

It takes both leadership characters and wide range skill set to become an effective CIO, from vision to influence; attitude to aptitude, strategy to execution, but most importantly, the role needs to have the ability to adapt to change and the open mind to capture opportunity, think holistically and take systematic approaches. Besides, as a Chief Information Officer, the CIO today is Chief Influence Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, and Chief Insight Officer.

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