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The evolving meaning of the 'I' in CIO

Thor Olavsrud | July 21, 2015
As Ginna Raahauge, a veteran of Riverbed and Cisco, steps into the CIO position at data integration software specialist Informatica, she reflects on the changing responsibilities of the CIO.

The intelligence component is about bringing together the other three 'I's into a cohesive whole that grants visibility into the business and its IT.

"In looking at companies that were very attractive to me, it was about this convergence that's happening around intelligence," she says. "Things like understanding who's accessing what at any given time and at what mobility layer."

Even as the role is shifting, CIOs -- or anyone in a technical role for that matter -- need to keep in mind that the new responsibilities are additive to the infrastructure maintenance and support that have always been part of the IT function.

"You have to have a clear architectural view and strategy," she says. "You need to key to a longer-term decision point, while keeping it flexible enough that you can pick up the new technologies that are emerging so fast. It's about the balance of looking at both infrastructure and application architecture all the way out to user experience."

The search for tech talent

Beyond the technology, CIOs need to keep an eye on people if they're to survive and thrive in the shifting IT landscape. That means paying special attention to acquiring and developing talent. While technical depth is good, Raahauge says she values broad skills that allow IT professionals to be cross-functional more and more each day. This is fueled by today's focus on integration and innovation: someone who has a handle on infrastructure, applications and business requirements is more likely to come up with an innovative idea that bridges the three than a person who's deep in only one of those areas.

"I value that you can do the technical configuration or a router, but what I value more is becoming more predictive and hypothetical in your thinking," Raahauge says. "Those are the skills of the future that I think are going to be really important and highly rewarded."

"Talent is the biggest thing," she adds. "It comes down to creating a culture of innovation internally and working to unlock people's potential. It's also going a little outside of the norm looking for really strong business-minded people that might want to do a rotation."

That's something she picked up in her years at Cisco, where cross-functional rotations were the norm.

"Watching the model work inside a company like Cisco was pretty impressive," she says.

As an added benefit, she notes that such rotations work especially well for millennials.

"Millennials are much more adept at picking up and being cross-functional," she says. "They're more adept at being broad versus specific. If you look at the history of IT, you were much more rewarded at being the expert and going very deep. You still will need the depth in certain areas, but I think where we're seeing acceleration is in learning how to be broad so you can be more fungible."

"You have to keep it fresh for them," she adds. "I've tried to stay very close to the younger generation. They're not going to do a role for very many years at a time. They want diversity in learning and new experiences."

 

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