The best CIO I worked for had his Masters in Commerce and came from business. He got me to build the technical strategy and managed the relationship with the board and exco. He taught me a huge amount about how the CIO should be engaging with business and technology didn't come into it. Talking tech is like the CFO talking about his GL, AR and AP. Nobody cares - they're just more tools used to achieve a desired outcome. This could be efficiency (saving costs), future opportunity (increasing revenue), or improved controls (mitigation of risk). We do this by automating processes, providing and enhancing available management information, and increasing access through new technology but the outcomes must be related to the business.
A strong CIO can rarely be a technologist as the personality is rarely a strong fit. Engineers focus on practical application and implementation where business executives look at shareholder value, risk, investment and factors that at face value don't often seem aligned to what is technically seen as the "right" solution. The CIO has to be able to have these conversations in the language the board is used to. A strong business-centric CIO can offer tremendous value to the exec as the role exposes them to each and every function in the business at a level of detail far deeper than any of the other "shared" services. Finance is generally focused on the money, and HR on the people. A value-adding IT department is implementing systems which support the business process, involve much of the staff, codify the business rules, and provide rich information - they often know more about the business than anyone else. But the leaders are often not engaged because they talk operationally. Ask an Operations Manager the same question - they experience the same frustrations - read any Ops textbook, CIO's are not alone.
I am a CIO, but my previous job was CTO and my background is technical. I studied Civil Engineering which possibly makes it even worse because I concrete is just not an interestign topic at most business meetings. I acknowledged this weakness years back. I have focused the majority of my recent personal development on non-technical and management-directed areas for the last 10 years. I am currently completing an MBA, have attended coaching and negotiation courses, joined a public speaking group, and spend a lot of time working on my communication skills. I have an introverted personality which does not help with the networking, but if I believe that I can add value to the enterprise, I have to accept that it is not about the business not understanding me, it's about me moulding my behaviour to the business. I draw the line at playing golf though, that is just plain stupid!
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