Sunday, October 7, 2012

Decode CIO DNA: Does CIO stand for "Career Is Over"?

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  Max Planck

At recently released global CIO DNA survey & report from EY, too few CIOs are currently regarded as true members of the executive management team, limiting their potential for change. They appear to be C-level in title only. And less than half say they are deeply involved in strategic decision-making;  about one-third (35%) admit that they are strongly in need of advice on how best to develop their career.

There are also many in-depth debates regarding CIO’s career path, and enriched discovery of magic “I” in CIO’s title, however, there’re similar concerns on CIO’s role:  What are opportunities and risks as CIO today? Does CIO stand for “Career is Over”?  If not, still the question remains - where to move from the CIO position?

1. CIO as Chief Information/ Integration Officer: Career is Ongoing

From the variety of industrial surveys: about 65% of CIO interviewees enjoy the scope and remit of the role of the CIO making this a desirable career destination for most — with about two-thirds being content to see their role as a final career destination and half remaining ambitious, hoping for a true invitation to the top table.

For a pure IT guy, CIO is the highest rank - there is nowhere to move to. But a pure IT guy would never make it to CIO in the first place as the position requires far more than IT knowledge, skills and experience.

But only 17% of CIOs have a position in the executive leadership team, the need to discuss technology issues in terms of the business value they bring — whether costs saved, revenues gained, customer satisfaction achieved or similar — rather than in terms of uptime, gigahertz, and terabytes.

Most leaders aim to keep any discussions with the CIO centered on IT budgets, with few seeing this as a chance to engage in a wider discussion about the value of technology. There’s a common understanding that the C-suite prefers a CIO who is simply stable, consistent and doesn’t rock the boat much.

How to change such outdated perceptions?

  • Change is Opportunity: Technology is changing. At the time of the event of IT, no one would have thought of this arena and the need of the system. The position of IT / CIO will never curtail, however, it depends on person to adopt the new technology or not.  it could become a ceiling as the role really depends on the vision and strategy that the CIO creates for the organization
  • CIOs are strong generalists – with exposure to all the different business areas. only a few other executives have the opportunity to develop such a deep understanding of the wider business. Business acumen seems to be the critical success factor for the CIO to position themselves well to get promoted to CEO or COO – with sector-specific variances.
  • IT/Software Delivery Competency: The world and business changes much faster than ever in era of digitization, IT also need to be become more swift, elastic and agile to be perceived as value center, than cost center, it's time to gain competency via customer-centric mindset, cross-functional collaboration and agile project/ methodology, CIOs see IT potential to add value to the business
  • IT becomes more critical to business, so does CIO role.  Nicholas Carr’s article from 10 years ago “IT doesn’t matter” is not becoming a reality. On the opposite, today's IT is more pervasive and aggressive, IT becomes the key differentiator for business's growth. CIO role is also not becoming irrelevant, it’s a fulfilling role need wear many hats such as business strategist, inspiring leader, technology visionary and tactical manager.
  • Back to fundamental “I”-Information: Information & Knowledge Management are the absolute key to unlocking both the potential and the competitive advantage of a business no matter in which sector. The CIO, in the era of big data, has far more of a focus on the middle letter of his/her title than ever before.
  • IT is an Integral Part of Business: The combination of business and personal life has never been more prevalent. IT can no longer sit in the data center building servers and simply tell people what apps to install. IT need to be much more integrated into the business, the business model and even the thought process of the users and their needs. Cheif Integration Officer is BEST suited in current scenario since CIO is expected to participate in board/strategy meetings unlike being considered as cost center traditionally. CIO as Chief Integration Officer, career is ongoing.
  • CIO’s DNA: The role of the Chief Information Officer is a very tricky one and hard to fill. The problem is heavily masked because the position is often filled with the wrong person. On one hand,  the CIO needs to have a sound business mentality and communication skills to deliver on business objectives and decide the strategy. On the other hand, the CIO needs to be a geek to manage the operation within. The CIO does not need to be technically directly involved, but a technical background is good to have to be able to manage the team. The team needs to be able to trust the CIO and the CIO needs to understand them to be able to manage them. That said, a CIO with the correct position and opportunity must not retreat into the technology. Unfortunately, it’s happening where the ultimate technologist was promoted to the position. Without grooming to include a good business background, this CIO may retreat to the familiar and the comfortable ground.

2. CIO as Chief Innovation/Intrapreneur Officer: Career is Outrun

From the survey, about three-quarters (75%) of CIOs rate project and change management skills as crucial for their role, while 77% regard an analytical approach and organizational skills as similarly important. CIO's aren't left with "ONLY" being integrators. There are so much change and new innovation afoot all around in where opportunities for innovation are omnipresent. CIO with innovation hat will outrun the peers and bring business value to the table.

  • CIO as Innovative Business leader: “Change is Opportunity”. The CIO role must keep a close eye on trends in technology AND trends in his/her respective business. Some IT trends are Fads and some have real business value. The CIO must understand all aspects of the business, all aspects of technology, quickly assess opportunities for improvement where business and technology meet and ultimately execute the plan. The effective CIO can determine which trends will bring value to their respective business. Next they must sell these trends as valuable benefits to the business and finally they must execute. The CIO that can navigate the rapidly changing IT trends, align them with the business and deliver true business value will never be classified as “Career Is Over”. 
  • 3-Stage Innovation Scenario: Innovation is to “making changes to something established by introducing something new.” CIO as Chief Innovation Officer need more focus on "I" than T, information is living blood in any business today, and all industry leaders claim they are at information business cross-sectors; Today's innovation definition broadly includes services, processes, business models, communication, and cost structure improvements across the enterprise, IT today plays significant role at either disruptive innovation, sustainable innovation or efficiency innovation,:
    Stage 1 Data Processing leads to Information
    Stage 2 Information processing leads to Knowledge
    Stage 3 Knowledge processing leads to Intelligence
  • Business Growth via IT Perspective: How often have we encountered business leadership deciding to venture into a new market or acquire another company, but not all that concerned about exactly how those initiatives get accomplished? A CIO, on the other hand, is very much concerned with the details of successfully meeting such challenges. Nothing wrong with those two perspectives - it's just the nature of the job and, of course, the people in the job. 
  • Provide Innovative End Customer Service: CIOs are in a unique position, often holding a helicopter view of what’s going on in the business. As CIO role is changing and encompassing a wider spectrum within the organization, focus on making a difference in the business, figure out how to provide end customers with a better service, CIOs usually do have some advantage to introduce something new, the new apps to delight customers, the new process to engage employees, or the new trends perceived via Big Data to influence next generation of products and services.
Being creative and innovate, Often and your Career won't be over, and even outrun.

3. CIO as Chief Influence/Inspiration Officer:  Career in Overdrive

From same global CIO survey, 81% of CIOs cited leadership as a crucial skill for their role, as did 79% for communication and influencing skills, well ahead of IT know-how. But despite this recognition, it is also clear that too many CIOs don’t know what it takes to join the executive management team.35% of CIOs also prioritize internal politics more now than they used to.

How does the role of CIO change in the world’s largest companies, those with revenues of at least US$1b? The survey highlighted some subtle, but important, distinctions:

  1. CIOs in large firms typically have a greater recognition of the need for stronger front-office relationships. They also see more clearly how such relationships can boost their career.
  1. CIOs at bigger businesses are more aware of the need to gain exposure to other parts of the business, to communicate business value and to deliver on major transformation programs. They are also more likely to see the value of having experience in another business.
  1. CIOs at large firms are far more likely to recognize the value of a business degree in broadening their skills. They are, unsurprisingly, usually more ambitious. As such, they are more attuned to the need for leadership in their role, while smaller company CIOs still put more emphasis on their technology know-how.
  • CIO’s new DNA: The business world becomes hyper-connected, over-complex, and interdependent. All this requires CIOs to stop ignoring the inevitable and start changing — before they are forced to: vision, pragmatism, tenacity and a desire to execute are CIO’s new DNA:

     a. Vision: The ability to see the wood for the trees, think outside the box, notice even small nuggets.
     b. Pragmatism: Cannot think wild thoughts that are impossible to implement.budgets are a reality and business needs must be met.

          c. Tenacity: Where there is a wall, there is a door, shovel or ladder close by. 

  • CIO as Chief Influence Officer:  Though many CIOs are Chief Introvert Officer, the power of introvert is to influence deeply: at a high level, CIOs will need to pay less attention to the underlying technologies they love while focusing more on developing their abilities as leaders, managers and influencers:
a. At business level, CIOs need be perceived as conductor to enable cross-functional project collaboration and coordination, to empower talent to voice out and stretch up; to envision business future and power it on;

b. At industry level, CIOs need become advocate to enforce effective policy, to learn innovative idea cross-industrial boundary;

c. At societal level, CIOs may inspire STEM education, and encourage better understanding of IT and its impact in humanity

  • CIO as Career In Overdrive The savvy CIO will seize the opportunity to learn everything about the company/organization and weed out the true business imperatives getting them agreed at the "C" table. Savvy CIO's often find that they ultimately hold a better view of the organization than many of the other more specialized or function focused "C's". This clever (or savvy) CIO now has all of the elements gathered and agreed to create the Strategic Business Plan for the organization which in many companies simply does not exist. "Increase the bottom line btw is not a strategic plan." The true CIO, has an opportunity to document the business imperatives, develop a Strategic Business Plan, present this to "C" peers, drive the inevitable discussion and debate to agreement on what the organization's true Strategic Business Plan for the immediate, mid and long terms are.
So where's the growth path for a CIO? Modern CIOs are innovative, influential, diplomatic, entrepreneurial, knowledgeable, should fit for many roles. A strong CIO "knows the business" as well or better than any other executive level position. Besides moving horizontally - to another company, another industry, or rather vertically to another CxO position, a CIO should be equally qualified to be considered for the CEO positions, as modern CEO and CIO have many common leadership characteristics.

CIO stands for: Career is Ongoing, outrun, and overdrive.


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