The Magic "I" in CIOs' title is innovation, influence, intelligence, and beyond.
IT is on the way to transform from a cost center to value creator, so does IT leaders, CIOs are no longer good enough to be tactical IT managers only, they have to play multiple leadership roles and wear the different hat to deal with business complexity today. So, What're the characteristics of next-gen CIOs as effective business leaders?
- Visionary is instrumental for the next gen CIOs: Being “Visionary" refers to taking the business strategy and having a vision of how the IT landscape, IT organization etc., will look like in mid or long term and how to support those goals. Sometimes the business users don't have a sense for the IT roadmap, and a clarified vision helps them understand what the ultimate goal is. Showing them how different IT components work together and support their business processes is a crucial step to getting their commitment for all the projects that will lead there.
- Business acumen with strategic focus: Having the strategic understanding of the business goals, the business acumen to implement them, the financial control to do it effectively and the technological awareness and skill set to provide a viable solution are all keys. It is all about understanding the business's essential requirements, why they're needed and what the benefits are, only then should the technological aspects come into play.
- Technical expertise is critical as well: It is about striking a balance of management (processes), leadership (people) and technical expertise/IT skills. The CIO should have both broad business acumen and deep technical expertise as well, with the capability to speak both dialects fluently. A CIO should accept and understand what they have to offer and strive for what is needed to establish and maintain this balance. There are many other seats at the Executive Table which are composed of business leaders. The CIO must be able to translate technical expertise into business opportunities. There needs to be the constant voice and presence of a true technical expert at the Executive Table who also understands both technology and business intimately.
- Innovation is another dimension to the mix: An opportunity for the CIO to add a lot of value in the C-Suite is helping C-Level leaders understand the possibilities of how new technologies can enhance the creation or improvement of products and services while balancing the technical and business risks, the investment needed, timing, etc. As the CIO needs to provide this "innovation execution" service to your fellow business peers. The concentration should be on what these technologies can do for the businesses, not on the technology itself.
- Being dynamic: Generally speaking, due to the speed of changes, especially at technology arena, a CIO needs to be a dynamic person with open, growth and complexity mindset- with high ability to handle personal attributes, manage impressions, communications to suite situations so as to make things happen. As IT leader, his/her dynamic persona will directly influence IT and business culture as well. A dynamic CIO can take courage to challenge the executive team’s expectations, as the reason many businesses end up not delivering value or achieving optimal performance is that there are too few executives willing to constructively challenge things.
Therefore, the next-gen CIOs with such five characteristics can become high mature business executives and tactical IT managers at the same time, with capabilities and capacities to manage the current portfolio of IT related systems, processes, tools, and people, as well as execute on innovation that creates value at the intersection of business and technology, with the goals to deliver greater and greater value to the organization.