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CIOs must adapt or risk being replaced

Tom Kaneshige | May 14, 2014
Michael Keithley has more than two decades of experience as a CIO. However, the IT veteran says he's seeing more change now than ever before.'s Tom Kaneshige sat down with Keithley to talk about the challenges he and his colleagues face, the need to speak the same language as the business side and the reality of what lies ahead for CIOs who refuse to change their approach.

I think CIOs can be that coach, that mentor and lead in this area. Sounds like a vastly different skill set from the those of the traditional CIO. Will your peers be able to transition to this role?
Keithley: It's challenging on a bunch of levels. We've always talked about aligning with the business. But this is much deeper than that. You really have to understand the business, speak in their language, understand the problems they're trying to solve, what their challenges are, etc. You've got to get out of the office. You have to have excellent inter-personal communication skills. It'll push and stretch CIOs, especially those comfortable resting on their technical laurels.

And it's not just dealing with the CMO, director of HR, CFOs and other corporate officers, I think the cloud in general is really threatening to a lot of CIOs. It's change, not something they're comfortable with. And so I see a lot of CIOs reverting back to, 'Well, we can't do it because of security or compliance.'

In effect, you can, you should and you have to if you really want a future in this profession of being a CIO. The cloud is an unstoppable force, and the users are going to do it whether you like it or not. Lines-of-business [managers] or pretty much anybody with a credit card can go around IT and procure cloud services.

To put your head in the sand and say, 'I'm not going to go down the cloud path' or 'I'm not going to make the investment to be able to relate to my C-level peers' is just a prescription for being replaced.


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