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The skills and traits of a next-generation CIO

Dan Tynan | July 25, 2017
Shifting technology budgets, old IT habits, and new turf wars have many CIOs stuck in a corner. Here’s what it takes to stand out as a great, forward-thinking CIO.

CIOs need to be able to answer questions from their business colleagues, like how to reduce churn, limit their risk exposure, or identify potential fraud. They don't necessarily need to become data experts themselves, Collins says, but they need to know whether data can be used to address such questions.

Yet not many CIOs are taking data seriously enough.

"I ask my peers how much they’re investing in education on basic analytics, forecasting, and modeling, so they can answer a question for a business partner who wants to understand churn, for example," he says. "The responses are mostly blank stares. Shame on IT, and shame on CIOs, if they don't help their companies analyze data without creating a separate organization that becomes another quagmire of who owns what."


Turf wars

While CMOs, CDOs, CXOs, and CIOs usually have different mandates, the boundaries between them are sometimes less than distinct, says Gartner's Sorofman.

"There is a blurring in the specific titles and roles across all of these disciplines," he says. "There's no uniformity anymore. I think that's because one CMO doesn't look like the next with respect to the scope of their responsibility. In many organizations, the CMO may be the CDO."

When these execs tussle over the control of technology, everyone loses.

But there doesn't have to be a turf war, says Fenwick. Smart organizations build collaborative teams based on the strengths each member brings to the table.

Or they remove the territory entirely. Lindberg says one of the best ways for a customer experience officer to navigate inside an organization is to "become Switzerland."

"I like to say a great CXO has zero responsibility," she says. "You don't own any of the assets or channels, but you're wholly accountable for the orchestration of it all. That really does stop a lot of the turf wars."

Renee McKaskle, senior VP and CIO for Hitachi Digital Business, says tech execs need to stop focusing on whose IT budget is bigger and rely on each other's expertise to help the business move forward.

"For CIOs to remain relevant they need to recognize that they cannot be protecting any turf," she says. "They need to surround themselves with smarter people than themselves and continue to be humble. If they are the smartest technologist in the room, they’re in the wrong room — they haven't heard from the right people and they will quickly become obsolete."

Ultimately, McKaskle says, the core function of the CIO's office — to act as the wise consultant on every significant tech spend — shouldn't change.

"Regardless of where the budget sits, if there's a technology purchase, I see it to make sure we're rationalizing it and not duplicating functions," she says. "One day the CMO is going to tear a story out of an airline magazine, hand it to you and say, 'This is really cool, can we implement this?' You need to able to say, 'You know, this doesn't really do what you think it does, but it sounds like you're looking for something from a business perspective because there's a gap. Let's talk about that.'"


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