This issue of CIO is all about The Future. Inside, you'll find a two-part examination of how the CIO role is likely to evolve over the next few years, as well as an in-depth profile of one young CIO, 32 year-old Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett, who offers a glimpse of the kind of traits and skills that will likely be required from the next generation of IT leaders.
Whatever the future holds, it doesn't take a crystal ball to see that for many CIOs the immediate future will be dominated by the current economic downturn. The global financial crisis is causing fundamental shifts in organisations at almost every level. At the top, it is forcing CEOs to become risk averse, looking to wring efficiencies from their C-level executives and business unit heads. At the same time, declining revenues and profits mean that for many organisations job losses are the order of the day.
Another result of the GFC is that it has prompted many organisations to redefine innovation. Even if staff cuts haven't hit your company, it's a safe bet your IT organisation is feeling pressure of some kind. As companies batten down the hatches to weather this turbulent economic climate, businesses and their IT departments have a decision to make: will technology be a strategic driver or simply a utility?
Of course, the CIO is a crucial part of that discussion. But part of having a seat at the new-world-order table means CIOs also need to explore and implement innovative ways to train, educate and build tomorrow's leaders.
If there is any silver lining to the financial crisis it is that CIOs now have the opportunity -- you could even call it a mandate -- to build an exceptional team; a team that can deliver improved efficiencies in today's challenging times, but one that is also ideally positioned to deliver the agility that organisations will need when the bear finally becomes a bull.
For 18 months or more, we in IT have been bemoaning the "skills crisis". However, at a recent roundtable that I hosted on the topic, one leading CIO posited that what we are experiencing is not a "skills crisis" but a "leadership crisis".
Therein lies the challenge for CIOs. While charged with delivering the aforementioned efficiencies as their CEOs look to redefine innovation, they themselves need to be able to find the best and brightest employees, and keep them engaged at a time when many cutting-edge IT projects are taking a back-seat to maintaining operational excellence in a constricting economy.
The military sources its next generation of officers by looking for young recruits who show "command posture" in the field. The process is rarely so clear-cut for those of us who work in the ever-shifting world of technology and business, where career paths are not so rigidly mapped out.
CIOs looking to devise and implement a career path for their teams in these challenging times will clearly need to be masters of innovation. CIOs will need to be able to identify the talented, self-motivated individuals within their organisations and be innovative enough in their management style to offer these workers a career path that ensures they continue to provide value to the organisation for years to come because can they can see themselves holding a senior job one day.
Maybe even your job.
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