This does not mean that a CIO can't come from the IT function. IT managers can have the right basic skills to become successful CIOs.
Their strong grounding in technical skills is a pre-requisite for leading an IT team, but this technical base needs to be coupled with very strong business skills, and these do not naturally come from within the IT function and technology environment itself.
Five steps to the CIO role
In practice, this means that aspiring IT leaders should consider five key steps:
Seek a mentor from another part of the business. Training and theories are fine, but having a senior business leader who can coach you and provide feedback is a very effective way to grow into a successful leader.
Work outside the IT function for a period. Many companies offer secondments, and these can provide invaluable experience.
A secondment can also give you insights into how the business views the IT function. Seeing the other side of the coin is useful, and when you return to the IT team, you can take action to improve the way IT supports the business.
Take every opportunity to present and communicate with senior leaders. Observe and study senior leaders, and watch how they present.
It's useful to attend presentation and communication courses, but the real learning comes when you put things into practice.
Preparing and understanding how to contextualise messages is critical -- to be able to say something in two slides as opposed to ten is a skill many IT managers should learn.
Attend company events and socialise with colleagues outside the IT team. It's often difficult to hone your social and influencing skills, as this means stepping outside your personal comfort zone.
Being able to work a room is something that generally does not come easy to anyone, but it can be learnt; and the way to do so is through practice.
Build a strong understanding of finance concepts. There are many excellent books that provide an overview of accounting concepts.
Talk to your finance team and understand how they view IT from a cost perspective. The better you understand the finance team, the easier your life will be once becoming a CIO.
Antony Barnes and Marcus Johansson are associates at PricewaterhouseCoopers
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