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CEOs seek CIOs with a 'bias for action'

Clint Boulton | March 18, 2016
CEOs want several things from today’s transformational CIOs, including superior communication, collaboration and risk mitigation skills, say executive recruiters. But a longer-term question looms: What becomes of the CIO?

It was clear at the Forbes event that most of the 100 CIOs in attendance viewed themselves in the transformational camp. Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray, who has introduced more than 200 cloud and other IT systems at the agency since 2013, said that he had to balance upgrading antiquated IT systems that consume more than 85 percent of his budget, with an aging workforce that he's had to train up to support the new tools. He also endowed certain employees with the ability to drive change, providing goals and boundaries.

"The CIO role is changing in that we are seen as needing to be creative problem-solvers for whether it’s a business or a nonprofit organization, of which technology is a tool," Bray says. "It's about how you have that conversation with your leadership about the problems that they want to solve and how you will help get to that answer.”

What does the future hold for the CIO?

With technology accelerating and transforming businesses at an unprecedented rate, what CEOs want from their CIO in the future will become an open-ended question. What’s next for CIOs who successfully transforms their business? Each year, dozens of CIOs who complete their work at one company move on to higher-profile CIO roles with larger budgets and greater responsibilities. Others, such as former ADP CIO Mike Capone and, most recently, Crocs CIO Stephen Katsirubas, are becoming COOs.

If Marc Benioff is right, many CIOs who lead transformations will eventually land CEO roles because they have been exposed to every facet of their business, and the board trusts them. Some CIOs may warm to that idea, while other, more traditional technologists will shudder at the notion of tackling more responsibility.

Target CIO Mike McNamara said that the CIO role may well collapse back into the CTO role from whence it evolved decades ago. CIOs have spent the last several years weaving IT throughout digital products and business processes, and educating senior managers on the role technology plays in the business. But as the digital transformations become complete, it begs the question: What becomes of the CIO?

“I think [the CIO role] transforms back into a CTO-type role,” said McNamara, who spoke to at the Forbes event. “You’re focused on architecture, you’re focused on engineering capability and it’s less about being the translator because the native language is in the business.”


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