The five essential ingredients for being a great CIO - how many do you have?

The qualities shared by real IT leaders...

Good CIOs must be able to understand the market

Good CIOs myst be able to understand the marketPhoto: Shutterstock

...back-office black hole, where technology is attached to operations, human resources and finance rather than having a direct relationship with the customer. Individuals in such a relationship at the front end are sheltered from IT functions, such as support and services. A successful CIO will break this stranglehold.

"My position has taught me that CIOs should get demand signals from people who consume services. CIOs must get out and spend time with the consumer. That type of direct engagement will show you how IT can really deliver value for the business. Break out of the vicious circle and spend time with the front office."

3. Always make space for innovation

easyJet CIO Trevor Didcock believes all organisations need a strong executive who is responsible for making tough IT decisions. He refers to the growing importance of the cloud, suggesting the CIO can tell the difference between provider puff and business benefits.

"There are a lot of charlatans out there," says Didcock. "You need an expert who understands the market and who can see the pitfalls. Who's going to get the right contract if it's not the CIO? The business needs someone to take the lead."

And if the right person is in charge, the business can start to think creatively. Just because the cloud is complex, the executive team should not be put off experimenting with on-demand computing. Good CIOs provide the opportunity for the business to take advantage of innovative IT.

"Let your people have space to try things," says Didcock. "Let people develop thinking that's off the wall - we try to do that at easyJet. We have tech-savvy people and it's important to let them play. We plan to let our people have more of a lead and we can do that through the early stages of transformation projects."

4. Concentrate on people and communication

Mark Leonard, executive vice president at telecoms company Colt, says debates on the key characteristics of a successful IT leader have raged for a long time: the past few years have been dominated by the importance of business skills, while previously there was a period when technologists were viewed as worthy CIOs because they'd done their coding apprenticeship.

You actually need both skills, says Leonard. A good CIO will exhibit...