What do CEOs want from their CIOs, and how can CIOs build on the power gains they've built up, even as everything around them is changing?
CIO magazine (US) tackled just that subject during a panel session at the CIO Leadership Conference, recently held in Boston. Michael Friedenberg, CEO of CXO Media (publisher of CIO), discussed the importance of CIOs as strategic business leaders and the changing role of the CIO with Rajinder (Raj) Gupta, executive director and adjunct professor Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management; Chris Patrick, partner at executive search firm Egon Zehnder International; Robert P Badavas, president and CEO, of staffing firm TAC Worldwide; and Steve Merry, CIO of the Sara Lee Corp.
They found five main keys to being a top-notch CIO today — and tomorrow.
One: Be a Strategic Business LeaderMuch of the CIO traditional role is now merely table stakes. Technology itself will not set you apart; you need far more business expertise than CIOs of yesteryear did.
CIO, Michael Friedenberg: What has changed about what CEOs expect from the CIO?
Raj Gupta: I have talked to 15 to 20 CEOs directly, and they are looking for someone who can be a trusted business partner. Of course the CIO has to keep the trains running, but CEOs want the CIO to be a senior leader such that, when you are together with the rest of the executive team, it's hard to tell you are the CIO.
Chris Patrick: CEOs want people who can connect the technology to their strategic intent. I have clients who are investing billions of dollars in IT. They want a person who can show the team the ROI from this investment.
Bob Badavas: At the end of the day, what CIOs are paid to do is take a full seat at the strategic planning table and be an integral part of the strategic decision making — which means they need to know what business they're in. Get out of the office and find out why people buy your product or service. IT is a strategic weapon. To find out how to use it, the CIO must engage with clients and the front-line distribution or sales organization.
Steve Merry: Technology is a given; we need to get value from that by removing the clutter and making it easy to use. Then we can sit with our business partners and take the business forward, focusing on things that make a difference — growth, innovation and acquisitions.
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