Leadership

CIOs could have a tough time getting a seat at the executive table

Businesses are looking to CIOs to bridge the gap between tech and business by having corporate vision, helping optimize business processes, and offering insight into new areas of growth. Does this sound like a career you'd be interested in?

Businesses are looking to CIOs to bridge the gap between tech and business by having corporate vision, helping optimize business processes, and offering insight into new areas of growth. Does this sound like a career you'd be interested in?

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Last week I wrote about how IT roles and titles may be changing to better align with business. One of the most prevalent opinions expressed in the feedback was that, no matter what you call an IT pro, he or she is always going to have to be tech-centric. And, actually, when you think about it, that makes sense. Why would you want some of your most technically skilled people to dilute their skill sets?

From reports I've seen, it appears that businesses are looking to CIOs to bridge the gap between tech and business. They want CIOs to have corporate vision, help optimize business processes, and offer insight into new areas of growth. That could mean a pretty steep learning curve for a CIO with a purely technical background. It means going from a tactical sense of operating (keeping systems running) to a strategic one (what tech trends do you see four or five years down the road?).

Do you think this is a tougher professional road than others in the C-suite have to travel? Do you think it's a road that's even possible to travel in light of the fact that most businesses still view IT as a cost center?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

6 comments
dawgit
dawgit

One thing for certain, just having a "MBA" won't cut it to fill the CIO's or CTO's seat. That might work for the CEO, or even the CFO, but one needs to bring pruf of technical expertise to get the CIO's spot. -d

abeeber
abeeber

I agree with your points, because unlike other C-Level Exec, a CIO can only come from one area of the business ??? IT. This is further compounded by the fact that for most IT professionals they have a very low probability of getting promoted to levels where they can be positions for C-Level advancement. This is compounded that such professionals are often absorbed in keeping up with advances in technology. This constant change and the skill obsolesce that comes with it, is the big difference between IT and other professions. Finally, the business world???s perception of IT is a barrier. Because it is seen as a cost center, anyone put in charge of such an organization is probably driven to reduce costs. The business/IT gap you mention is more fundamental in that the value of IT is not clearly mapped to business services. Only when IT and the services it provides is treated like a business will this gap shift. Only when other parts of the organization understand the value of IT as it impacts their business systems will the role of CIO have any chance. Otherwise for the individual in that role it will be ??? Career Is Over.

jsbell
jsbell

Nail on the head. Bean counters get to run the show, so if they can't count your beans they close the show. It's stupid. I've seen it done on a grand, suicidal scale, where the firm destroyed an entire IT department (to its own harm) because C-Level management washed their hands of the blue-collar task of mapping the value of IT services to the economic output of the firm. I'd like to see more on this topic. Lack of a systematic understanding of how IT ultimately makes money is making life miserable for too many in the profession, with adverse repercussions on our ability to compete in a technological economy.

swheeler
swheeler

You said it perfectly that, "the value of IT is not clearly mapped to business services." This is the reason IT gets viewed as throwing money into a black hole. We need to learn to trumpet our successes in terms the business can understand. If we can say we reduced the time to run monthly reports by 50% instead of talking about refactoring the code it should go a long way to demonstrate IT value. This has been a constant area of improvement for me. It's difficult enough to translate tech to business to teach users and a whole new translation to show the business value.

Matt Larson
Matt Larson

I think certainly any individial that finds themselves in an executive position must have some strategic sense. Still, the reason any board exists is to bring collective and diverse talents into one room to arrive at best solutions. The strength of the CIO is in realm of technology. That's their valuation offering.

swheeler
swheeler

I think it's perfectly natural for some IT folks to fill the CIO role. My best satisfaction is from seeing my solutions make work easier for the non-tech crowd. A lot of us are already filling this role by being the single-man IT shop for businesses. Being business savvy is just an extension of a varied skill set. I'm looking forward to getting out of the trenches and working more on strategy than direct implementation.

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