There was a time when a good CIO was simply a strong technologist. Today, effective CIOs have strengths that reach far beyond the technical skills listed on their resume. The best IT leaders also have to be strong business leaders, and they recognize these four key truths about the nature of their role:
- Know the Value of Strategy
Historically, CIOs have been left out of conversations about business strategy. In traditional IT shops, their role required them to focus primarily on the effective operation and management of core utility services, such as email, voice, file services, and supporting infrastructure. However, as businesses depend more and more on technology and every job description in every department requires technological knowledge, CIOs must focus on the ways in which IT can help the organization reach its goals.
In order to provide that value, CIOs must knock down the barriers that exist between IT and the rest of the organization. They must learn what their peers’ goals and challenges are, and deliver solutions that will help them meet and exceed those objectives.
- Get the Right People in the Right Seats
To move IT from an operational focus to a strategic focus, effective CIOs know how to get the right people in the right places. They evaluate gaps in IT service delivery and develop plans to bridge skill gaps and utilize talent effectively, ensuring that high-level professionals do not spend their days managing utility services that don’t deliver value to the business. These CIOs are active participants in developing hiring processes that identify the critical skills needed, and they work closely with HR to create training and development plans that will help the organization retain and grow that talent.
The other members of the leadership team may not “speak the language” of technology. Therefore, effective CIOs know how to communicate the value of their initiatives to the rest of the organization. They can frame their recommendations and efforts in a way that quantifies ROI and demonstrates precisely how a strategic IT initiative will solve key business problems like time to market, product development, delivery, agility, responsiveness, and meeting customer demands.
- Know When to Ask for Help
Many CIOs assume they must carry the burden of technology alone. Since other staff lack the technical knowledge to provide help, CIOs go it alone, attempting to solve every single problem internally. However, if they lack the resources or personnel to solve those problems, they cannot be effective. Strong CIOs know when they’ve hit their ceiling, and aren’t afraid to raise their hands and tell business leaders that it’s time to ask for outside help.
The role of the CIO is changing, and the best technology leaders understand the importance of embracing that change, and positioning themselves as key members of the leadership team. Through communication, strategy, and a little bit of self-awareness, CIOs are taking on more responsibility and delivering real business value to their organizations.