Monday, January 21, 2013

Five Desired Skills needed to be an Effective CIO

As a leader, the CIO has to be able to inspire and encourage with his/her vision and generate conviction and enthusiasm for the missions of the IT and company.

Many great CIOs share five common leadership traits as we brainstormed earlier through the CIO’s daily tasks may depend on the nature of the business and the corporate culture, there are also desired skill set & capabilities to make one an effective CIO.

1.    Management/Leadership Skills 

As a leader, the CIO has to be able to inspire 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. CIOs' leadership skills include effective communication and analytical thinking ability. A CIO has to be a digital visionary, and transformational leader, an empathetic communicator, a good facilitator, a good listener, and a good collaborator.

As a manager, the CIO also needs to be able to manage day-to-day tactical issues, as well as multiple new projects that may be in flight, so he/she need also motivate the team, mentor them, and properly command them. The ability to keep the bottom line while increasing efficiency, championing new and "business-relevant" technology, and providing "convincing" governance/ management discipline…

2.   Ability to Inspire and Create a Culture of Innovation and Change 

The "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 so-called "shot in the arm" of someone who thinks differently.  More Skills to Lead Change:
1) Communicate skillfully: CIOs must be able to relay complex technical ideas in a no technical manner to business leaders and have skills to communicate change
2) Quick Action and Change: The technology trend moves very quickly; slow movers almost always pay the price.
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.
4) Global Outlook: With the advance of the Internet, nearly any company can be global, which brings more competition, different cultures and customs, and multiple POVs.

3. The skill of Speaking Fluent Digital Dialects of 'Business' and 'Technology’

The CIO needs to develop skills beyond technology, based on the understanding of their particular organization's current and potential corporate structure, senior management style, staff size, and strategic plan. The absolute No#1 non-technical skill is the ability to speak the language of business. CIOs need to develop a broad skill set beyond technology. Coupled with the ability to understand, translate and speak “tech-talk.' Among other skills, they need strong business orientation and a proven ability to bring the benefits of IT to solve business issues They translate from one conversation to the other seamlessly.

The CIO has to be the technical visionary of the company, so she/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. so the CIO has to be flexible, adaptable, 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.  

4. Ability to Craft Technical Strategy as an integral part of Business Strategy

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. It is an advantage if the CIO has diversified experience, for business domain or technical expertise.
  • Ability to craft a good strategy: A lot depends on the corporate structure and the culture of the company. 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 challenging. In a progressive company that embraces technology and value information, 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. Still, all effective CIOs need to learn to craft a good strategy.
  • Ability to Implement Strategy: Most companies expect the CIO to lead the technical vision, so an IT background of some kind is a must, which likely includes some IT management and hands-on technical background at some point in their career. A good technical architecture grounding, a solid understanding of the application of technology in general.

5. The Ability to Interact with Business on the Processes and Pain areas

CIOs are Business Orchestrators. Add the ability to lead large-scale change programs, Understand the business, understand the business process, understand the latest technology and motivate IT Team to accelerate their performance. 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. He/she is responsible for providing the correct information in the correct manner to the right people at the right time.
  • Be the spinal cord for the organization - integrating various departments ability to bring out a technology-driven solution, motivating the IT team to constantly deliver despite not all applications getting used in the organization, driving adoption of applications (though part of change management, the most difficult piece). In short, the major task of the CIO today is 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. Given the vagaries of uncertain economic times, he/she must be able to align the business requirement with the IT capacity, which means that he/she must be able to constantly and dynamically lead an IT structure that will seamlessly support the business and well ahead of the business requirement. 
Modern CIOs also have multiple personas, face both unprecedented opportunities and unexpected pitfalls, the strong leadership traits and a solid set of skills will help prepare for such a journey.


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