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What it takes for a CIO to be a CEO

Carrie Mathews | May 15, 2013
With help from the CIO Executive Council, we tap into research about successful executives. Read on to learn more about the competencies CIOs need to develop to take the corner office, where CIOs fall short—and what CEOs expect from CIOs.

1. Outstanding CIOs (those ranked in top 15th percentile) score highest in Results Orientation, Strategic Orientation, Change Leadership and Customer Focus.
2. Outstanding CIOs perform significantly better than average CIOs in all competencies except for People and Organizational Development, where they are equivalent.
3. People and Organizational Development scores are relatively low for all types of executives assessed, particularly CFOs.
4. Outstanding CIO scores slightly surpass good CEO scores on most competencies.
5. Outstanding CEOs —the most well-rounded strategic leaders —perform significantly better than outstanding CIOs only in Market Knowledge and External Customer Focus.

How to Improve Your Executive Quotient (EQ)
CIOs who want to devote more of their time and energy to driving business strategy and innovation should focus on developing and leveraging the three competencies most particular to the business strategist: Market Knowledge, Strategic Orientation and Commercial Orientation. (See the “Future-State CIO Model,” above, for more on how each competency maps to three aspects of the CIO role: Function Head, Transformational Leader and Business Strategist.) However, even to get a chance to be a business strategist, CIOs must be strong in foundational competencies such as Change Leadership, Collaboration and Influence, and Function Expertise. Without these, a CIO is unlikely to get a seat at the strategy table, and may in reality be a CIO only in title.

Kerrie Hoffman, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Group’s Global Supply Chain CIO, wasn’t surprised by the relatively low scores for CIOs in Market Knowledge and External Customer Focus. Hoffman rose through the sales ranks of Johnson & Johnson before joining the IT department and becoming a CIO. She knows how important the market and customers are to a business. But, as CIO, she finds she has to make a concerted effort to focus on these areas. “The day-to-day job of a CIO doesn’t really require you to spend time doing customer and market visits, but it should require it,” says Hoffman.

Hoffman is leading an integrated Operations/IT effort to formulate and execute business strategy for emerging markets in areas of the Asia-Pacific region, where its products have been typically sold in mom-and-pop stores. Hoffman travels frequently to the region to size up the market. “Before I leave for these visits, I do my homework and get an overview of the specific business segment and market I’m going to that day. That way, I can really understand their challenges and the technology and business capabilities they need. My ultimate goal is have a rich and collaborative conversation with customers that takes us in a new direction —to really change the game,” Hoffman says.

CEOs, who often rise from the sales ranks, have an intuitive customer focus and often form close relationships with key customers. Conversely, in most industries CIOs concentrate on internal stakeholders and have not had much need to interact with external customers. An exception is George Chappelle, senior vice president and CIO at Sara Lee Foods. He credits his external customer focus to his 20-plus years in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. “CPG is all about the external customer. I have to have these skills as CIO because I am so involved with customers —from market research, new product innovation and throughout the supply chain,” says Chappelle. For CIOs in any industry who want to connect to the external customer, Chappelle suggests getting involved with new product or sales information initiatives. “Both require heavy IS support and will get any CIO linked externally,” Chappelle says.


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