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8/27/2019 - Posted in  ICT & Digital

What are the key skills for a successful CIO

Our expert's opinion

"With time, CIO’s responsibilities are changing. To ensure success within a company, future CIOs will not only have to understand the technology itself but above all its impact on the workforce.

A Chief Information Officer will have to become a Chief Innovation, because in order to step up we need to change who we are. He will also become a Chief Inclusion, to diversify the workforce. A Chief Intelligence, to be more analytical in its management. A Chief Instructional, to help the staff develop new skills. A CIO will also be a Chief Inspiration Officer, to inspire.

These are are new skills that need to be developed by future CIOs to be totally successful in their position.

Do you also think these are the key skills to develop for a CIO to be successful?"

- Nadia Veltens, Associate Consultant

The future of IT leadership: 5 new roles CIOs must master

If you think technology leaders' jobs have changed a lot over the past few years, just wait. Here are five new roles all CIOs must take on in the years ahead.

It's more than an understatement to say the role of technology leaders has changed over the past few years.

The Bionic CIO
The widespread adoption of cloud computing and process automation has reduced the demands for IT departments to keep the lights on. Large-scale capital expenditures on infrastructure are being replaced by increased operating expenses on services. Meanwhile, the pressure to take an active leadership role in the business's digital transformation is greater than ever.

"If you looked at CIOs ten years ago, they spent an inordinate amount of time in the lower parts of the stack and in the data center,
the emergence of cloud and business process automation have shifted us away
from old-school operational CIOs and into business enablers."

Archana Rao

CIO for Atlassian, makers of collaboration tools like Trello and Jira 

In a few years we'll see the emergence of "the Bionic CIO," predicts Jay Venkat, senior partner and managing director for Boston Consulting Group.

"They'll transcend what's traditionally been called information technology and teach the business how to become more digitally enabled," he says. "They'll need to understand not only technology but also its impact on the workforce. And if they want to become the 'Bionic CIO,' they'll have to upskill themselves."

What will the CIO job look like in five years? Technology leaders will need to be equally adept at five new roles. 

Role No. 1: Chief innovation officer
In the age of digital transformation, tech leaders really have just two options: become the agent of that transformation or be reduced to a caretaker role. That's why the 'i' in CIO really needs to stand for 'innovation,' says Renee Lahti, CIO for Hitachi Vantara, a data storage systems provider.

"I've actually tried to change my title to chief innovation officer. If we don't do that, we'll end up seeing chief data officers or CTOs usurp the creative aspects of our roles, and we'll be left making sure the lights are blinking in the data centers
and answering the 'I forgot my password' service desk questions."

Renee Lahti

CIO Hitachi Vantara

Today's CIOs are a lot like chief financial officers used to be 30 or 40 years ago, says Angela Yochem, chief digital and technology officer at Novant Health, a large healthcare provider based in the Southeast.

"A few decades ago the CFO went from minding some investments and ensuring SEC requirements were met to someone who legitimately makes a ton of money for the company," she says. "Once the CEO and the shareholders figured out that CFOs could be big money makers, they started sitting at the right hand of the CEO. I think it's reasonable to expect a similar evolution to happen in the role of the senior-most technology person."

But many CIOs who rose through the ranks due to their technical acumen are going to have a hard time making the transition, says Ken Piddington, CIO of petrochemical company SGR Energy.

"Traditional technologists aren't always the best business leaders,
they like to stay inside their comfort zone behind the firewall.
But the real opportunity for us and our organizations is to step outside that firewall and drive change.
We need to be able to change who we are in order to fit the situation our organizations are in."

Ken Piddington

CIO of petrochemical company SGR Energy

Role No. 2: Chief inclusion officer
A key agenda item for future CIOs will be to focus more time and effort on diversifying their workforce. That's true today, and it will be even more true tomorrow. Having a diverse staff enhances the decision-making process and leads to better outcomes, says Rao.

So far, the tech industry's record for diversity in hiring is pretty abysmal.

However, the situation is slowly improving. According to 2019 report by Redthread Research and Mercer, the use of diversity and inclusion (D&I) technology — recruiting, development, and retention tools that help identify candidates from under-represented populations — is on the rise.

Role No. 3: Chief (artificial) intelligence officer
Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be buzzwords the C-suite loves to throw around, but most still expect IT to make the AI magic happen.

According to a May 2019 survey by CompTIA, 60 percent of large organizations expect their existing IT staff to provide resources for the company's AI projects, while just under half also expect to add AI-savvy hires. Less than 10 percent say their AI projects will be handled primarily by business teams.

The main thing future CIOs will need to know is to understand the art of the possible, says Piddington.

"I won't need to know the specifics of how to use platform A, B, or C, or how to aggregate data in a particular way,
but I've got to know all the foundational components.
I need to understand what's possible with the technology so I can build the right team,
help them engage with their peers, and deliver value to the organization through analytics."

Ken Piddington

CIO of petrochemical company SGR Energy

Role No. 4: Chief instructional officer
The need for technologists to develop better people skills been a longstanding cliché. But in five years excellent interpersonal skills will be table stakes — not just for networking with peers in the C-suite, but also for building stronger relationships with their staff.

"Developing empathy is really the key, it's about looking at things from other peoples' perspective. If you understand where they're going to have success, you can understand how to educate them. That's much better than being the 'IT guy' who rains down policy after policy without understanding the impact they have on everyone else."

Randy Gross

CIO for CompTIA

And as tech leaders' portfolios grow, and they take on higher-level responsibilities, they'll need to lean heavily on staff. That also means taking a more active role in helping them develop new skills.

"I think most CIOs are in the mindset of doing continuous education for themselves," says David Chavez, vice president of innovation and architecture at Avaya Innovation Incubator. "And based on the rate technology is changing, they need to invite their staff to do something similar."

Role No. 5: Chief inspiration officer
Today's CIOs need to identify the technologies that will drive their organizations forward and explain to the CFO and CEO why they're necessary. Tomorrow's tech leaders will need to articulate a vision for the entire company that motivates and inspires.

The ability to inspire is directly related to the ability to tell stories, says Lahti. It will increasingly be up to the CIO to connect the dots between the technology and what is possible to achieve with it.

For example, she adds, researchers in Australia are using Hitachi VSP storage arrays to store petabytes of brain scan data, which they're analyzing as part of an effort to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's.

"Those kinds of stories can help explain to the people in your organization what technology is making possible, and inspire them to be focused on a particular goal," she says.

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