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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.

Scott Kitlinski, CIO for cloud consultancy Astadia, says more CIOs need to take this kind of consultative approach.

"They should think of themselves as chief relationship officers for IT," he says. "Then you realize you have to build relationships and rapport with the business people, who will recognize that you're only just trying to help. You're not trying to mandate; you're trying to understand what their needs are and find the best answer."

 

From CI-no to CI-yes

One reason CIOs have ceded power over some technology decisions is they tend to say no a lot, says Collins. That leads other team members to seek innovative solutions elsewhere.

"We're empowered to say no, especially when it's a bad decision," he says. "It's part of what gives us a bad rap. But CIOs rarely get the opportunity to say yes without a business partner in hand."

CIOs are notoriously risk averse, notes Finastra's Häring, especially in the financial services market, where software has a shelf life of 10 years or more.

"Changing such fundamental software is often like changing the wheels of a running car," he says. "The risk of downtime for a bank is too great. Because of that risk factor, a lot of CIOs will say no to innovative new systems instead of leaning forward and saying, 'Of course; this is important.'"

Today many CIOs have the opportunity to connect with customers, dive deep into data, collaborate with their digital experience and marketing peers, and use technology to create value and even drive revenue for the business.

"I'm increasingly seeing business-savvy CIOs bringing a deep understanding of the customer to their technology teams," says Forrester's Fenwick.

But often, the freedom to pursue this must come from the top of the org chart, he adds. CIOs may need to gently educate their bosses on the impact of digital transformation and the changes their organization needs to make.

"I've always said CEOs get the CIOs they deserve," he says. "The CEO who sees technology as a potential accelerator of the business, particularly around the customer experience, will look to CIOs who are much more business savvy and able to see how they can use technology to drive revenue growth."

 

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