4 critical skills for tomorrow’s CIOs

The worldwide business backdrop is rapidly intensifying and becoming increasingly complex, challenging tomorrow’s CIOs to come to the table with much more than high-level technical insights and experience.

Historically, CIOs have played an executive level information systems and technology (IS&T) “oversight” role when it came to all data and technology facets of the business, while not spending much time on other operations-wide aspects. With the swiftness of technology and globalization, tomorrow’s CIOs can no longer afford to play just this role. They will be required to develop additional knowledge in multiple business areas in order to become more resilient strategic thinkers. CIOs who are up for this challenge will gain a solid competitive advantage in their field, increasing their value to employers, and subsequently affording them opportunities previously unavailable.

For CIOs, landing and keeping a job is more problematic than in previous years. The time where CIOs held roles and responsibilities with absolute and defined boundaries has vanished. When it comes to the new and improved CIO role, the lines have blurred, increasing ambiguity and responsibility, while also creating great opportunities for expansion in terms of application of knowledge, experience and skill sets. Future CIOs will be expected to take on more multifaceted challenges as employers aim to more broadly define and optimize the CIO function.

Tomorrow’s CIO will need to become more:

  1. Instinctive and visionary, capable of rapidly anticipating, identifying and adjusting the information, products and services their teams provide to internal and external stakeholders. New CIOs will need to keep pace with factors impacting not just their areas, but the business as a whole, and become agile enough to expeditiously adapt. Their ability to grasp the broader business goals and very closely strategize and collaborate with their teams, stakeholders and other C-suites will be critical. Setting and obtaining the business vision can no longer continue to be the responsibility of only the CEO. The CIO, along with other executives, will be required to apply well researched, planned input and effort throughout all their endeavors in order to be considered successful.
  2. Organizationally and globally astute, recognizing their general roles have changed, requiring a broader scope approach to the daily activities within their department. As mentioned above, lines among C-suites will become more blurred, necessitating closer collaboration among business executives for the purposing of ensuring all activities and projects fully align with business-wide objectives. In order to accomplish this, a progressive CIO will need to explore all internal and external factors that have an ability to positively or negatively impact IS&T outcomes on a global level. This will assist a CIO in determining the most effective and appropriate decisions, in a more proactive manner vs. reactive. To a great extent, CIOs will need to be willing and capable of playing in more than just their own sandbox.
  3. People-focused, constantly increasing their awareness and interactions within their department, between departments, vendors, clients and other stakeholders. This should be done with the goal of smoothing clear communications and improving positive interactions. Absent this skill, the most technically and strategically sound CIO can easily fail. This particular skill is not always effortlessly obtained but given continuous attention can have the greatest impact on the effectiveness of a CIO.
  4. Transparent and approachable, channeling positive behavior and maintaining an approachable and professional character within all relationships to increase the potential for increased constructive discussions. The more data and technology enables the agility of business, the more CIOs will increasingly be expected to emerge from the background as key leaders behind business. Their sophisticated knowledge of business intelligence systems and technological developments will help to shine a spotlight on IS&T, thus increasing its relevance to stakeholders. This, in turn, puts more pressure on tomorrow’s CIOs to also advance in their softer skills such as transparency and approachability when dealing with employees, other executives, vendors and clients.

CIOs who continually strive to develop a solid understanding of business at a strategic business level, and also recognize the need to uphold the skills required for their role, will excel and remain in high demand, securing a long and sustainable future in their field.

Moira Alexander
Post by Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group and a Co-founder and Director, Information Systems & Technology Advisory at Conture Business Advisors, PS. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications and a contributor for the Price of Business Talk Radio 1110 KTEK (Home of Bloomberg Radio), Houston, TX. She has 20+ years in business, (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to www.leadhershipgroup.biz and www.contureadvisors.com.

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