What Does it Mean to be a Strong CIO in Today’s Business World?

IT Leader Skills

When members of the C-suite complain about inadequate IT leadership, what they most commonly are referring to is the notion that CIOs spend too much money without being able to justify it. IT is perceived as a black hole, where no one is ever quite clear what IT is working on, why the project matters, and how it will achieve a strong return on investment for the organization. Much of the blame for these perceptions unfortunately lies with the CIO. The CIO is the leader who sets the tone and priorities for the IT department. Thus, in a rapidly evolving, technology-driven business climate, CIOs need a very particular skill set to push their way out of mediocrity and inadequacy. Let’s explore five essential truths about what it means to be a strong CIO in today’s business world:

  1. Strong CIOs lead the digital agenda for their organization: In too many organizations, IT is seen as a service department with no vision or agenda of its own. Other departments assign tasks and projects to IT without considering the expertise and insights of IT itself. As a CIO, it is your obligation to seize control of the digital agenda within your organization. You want to identify opportunities for digital innovation and to craft the organization’s digital agenda around it, instead of letting others dictate IT’s agenda.
  2. Strong CIOs form partnerships and alliances to advance strategic business goals: When others come to you with requests and assignments, you don’t want to simply accept the task as originally outlined, especially when you see opportunities to improve and refine the task. CIOs have an important vantage point at the nexus of business strategy and technological mastery. You want to use this vantage point to create partnerships and alliances with others in your organization. Instead of accepting a task as-is, you can use the opportunity to educate the other party on what you know—to get them so excited for your ideas that they view you as a partner and, just as significantly, as their equal.
  3. Strong CIOs define success metrics in business terms: IT professionals tend to focus on complex technical details of their work, and to define their success metrics around their technical prowess. As a CIO, however, these success metrics mean nothing to the rest of the C-suite, and only reinforce the perception that IT is out of touch with and unaccountable to the rest of the organization. The way to combat this is by developing business metrics to measure IT—the same type of metrics that every other department is (or at least should be) using.
  4. Strong CIOs tell engaging and informative stories: Just as you want to communicate your IT successes in business-friendly metrics, so too do you want to tell business-friendly stories about IT. Your goal is to inform and engage non-IT departments by using metaphors, simple messages, and business metrics to break down complex IT concepts into their most basic terms.
  5. Strong CIOs incorporate business skills into professional development: To create a workplace culture that emphasizes business skills as much as IT skills, you want to actively integrate these ideals into professional development. Your entire IT department should receive training on the importance of thinking in business terms, so they can help solidify IT’s reputation as a department with a strong digital agenda and a set of business goals that can drive bottom-line profitability for the organization.

CIOs need to come to the table with solid business acumen to find success in the modern enterprises. These skills include taking charge of the digital agenda for the organization, forming partnerships and alliances with others to advance strategic business interests, defining success metrics in business terms, telling engaging and informative stories, and incorporating business skills into professional development.

If you found this post informative, you won’t want to miss Crossfuze’s upcoming webinar, “Top 10 Competencies of the Modern IT Leader,” on September 20, 2017 at 2 p.m. EST. During this free webinar, we’ll hear from IT executive recruiter and noted author Martha Heller about the skill set that modern CIOs need to lead their companies into the future. Martha is a long-time columnist for CIO Magazine and CIO.com, and the author of “Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT” and “The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership.”

To register for this event, which is part of Crossfuze’s Services Reimagined Webinar Series, please go to https://www.crossfuze.com/webinar-series_martha-heller/.

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