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Are CIOs in APAC ready to be CEOs?

Zafirah Salim | Nov. 21, 2014
“For a CIO to follow in a CEO’s footsteps, they will need to take ownership of information, better align with business needs and focus on driving innovation forward,” said Neville Vincent, senior vice president and general manager, Asia Pacific, Hitachi Data Systems.

It may take more than technical expertise to convince senior management that today's successful CIO will be a good choice for tomorrow's CEO.

In Singapore, responses are mixed and companies are not overly confident that a CIO can become tomorrow's CEO.

This is the gist of a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by Hitachi Data Systems. The report, titled 'The Future for CIOs: Which Way Is Up?', surveyed 1,000 senior executives from 13 countries across Asia Pacific, including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and six members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The survey findings revealed that the modern CIO has a strategic role that goes beyond just managing the IT function in majority of organisations (89 percent). In addition, the majority of respondents (84 percent) agree that the CIO should be involved in all business-critical decisions at an early stage.

Going beyond the CIO level will be difficult

"This research shows that CIOs are well-respected by the business, particularly during the past year, when they helped firms cut costs by being more efficient. Looking forward, CIOs need to take the next step and contribute to business growth by developing new products or services and generating revenue," said Neville Vincent, senior vice president and general manager, Asia Pacific, HDS. "66 percent of respondents believe that the CIO should be a potential candidate for succeeding the CEO - so there are already noticeable cracks in the glass ceiling."

CIOs and other IT executives seem to be aware of the areas where they will be required to deliver. However, they may underestimate the skills and experience needed to achieve this.

In Singapore, 91 percent of respondents feel that CIOs should have final decision making authority on all IT expenditure, and that they should also be involved in business-critical decisions at an early stage.

According to CEOs, the top three areas where CIOs should develop their skills are: a greater understanding of the business (41 percent); the ability to think strategically (26 percent); and an awareness of broader industry developments (23 percent). However, none of the following feature at the top of the CIOs' own development goals: demonstrating business case for IT investment (28 percent); technical skills to integrate new technologies (24 percent) and knowledge of emerging technologies (23 percent).

James Chambers, senior editor of The EIU said, "CIOs have earned the right to be considered a candidate for CEO, alongside with their C-level counterparts, but it will take more to secure the top job. Ambitious candidates will need to take the initiative to develop their own knowledge and spend time in other parts of the business as they explore ways of creating a competitive edge for their organisations."


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