Is It Time To Say Goodbye To The CIO?

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Do You Really Know What Position You Ultimately Want To Get Promoted To?
Do You Really Know What Position You Ultimately Want To Get Promoted To?

So you want to be a CIO someday. Great. However, there may be a bit of a problem with your goal — the position of CIO may be going away. In fact, in about 10 years or so (is that when you are planning on seizing the reigns of IT control?) the position may look completely different from how it looks today. Hmm, a moving target. Maybe we should talk with some current CIOs to find out just what’s going on here…

Do CIOs Still Need To Have Business Skills?

Over at CIO Insight magazine they just got done doing their annual survey of CIOs. The results were, to say the least, eye-opening. The answer to the most asked question about the need for CIOs to have business skills is still a definite YES.

Current CIOs report that they are acting as much as business leaders as technology leaders. The days in which a CIO could lost himself / herself in the world of IT and be left alone appear to be long gone.

There is a bit of a double standard going one here however. CIOs are reporting that although they are being asked to implement programs that will result in fundamental business improvements, the position of CIO is still being pushed back to the second tier of senior management.

What Skills Do CIOs Need To Have Today?

With all of this talk of business skills, won’t CIOs need to have solid technical knowledge going forward? The answer appears to be yes, but. CIOs are saying that the job skills that they use most include finance, business process modeling, written and spoken communications, and just a bit of sales and marketing skills. I sure didn’t see servers, bandwidth, application security, or API knowledge anywhere on that list.

In fact, CIOs are reporting that the folks who are currently getting hired into IT positions have, can you believe it, even less business knowledge than people did just two years ago. This is quickly going to cause a problem: there are going to be very few qualified candidates to become CIO over the next few years. Can anyone say “opportunity”?

Skills That CIO-Wanna Bes Need To Be Working On

You might be asking yourself, so what skills do I need to be working on to take advantage of the need for business savvy CIO candidates that will be coming in the future?

The list is actually fairly short. To start with, you need to have very good public speaking skills and the leadership skills that will be required to implement what you talk about. A detailed understanding of the business that you are working for (like how they REALLY make their money) and a solid understanding of corporate finance.

There is, of course, more to this list. Once you’ve mastered the basics, then you’ll have to keep adding skills. Today’s CIOs report that you’ll also need to know how to master the strategic use of information, how to lead enterprise-wide changes, perform business model innovation, and improve business processes.

What All Of This Means For You

The report from today’s CIOs is not all good. It sure looks like CIOs are currently being treated as second-class citizens in the C-suite. However, as we all know, IT is not going away and it sure is not getting any less important. I’m thinking that CIOs are actually going to become more important over time.

CIOs are reporting that although business skills are becoming an even more important part of the set of tools that a CIO needs to have, fewer and fewer IT hires are coming with these skills. Clearly this is opening the door for those who dream of someday becoming the CIO.

Although it looks like you might have a shot at the top spot, it’s not going to be handed to you. You’re going to have to work at it. We’ve laid out the skills that you need to develop. Not go out there and get ready for the day that they call your name to become the firm’s next CIO…!

Do you think that the position of CIO will still exist in 10 years?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Forget the whole alignment thing, is it possible that a CIO’s behavior is the root of the problem that the IT side of the house and the business side of the house have never been able to get along? Could it be that this is the secret as to why there has always been such a gap between these groups?

6 thoughts on “Is It Time To Say Goodbye To The CIO?”

  1. The CIO will disappear!

    I believe that in the coming years IT will be more and more integrated in the business. So there will not be ‘business’ and ‘IT’ anymore, but only business. This also means that current attempts to align business to IT can be considered as fighting the symptoms within companies that are not yet integrating IT in their business.

    When IT is integrated in the business, there will not be any use for a CIO anymore. All other CxO roles will have their own responsibilities concerning IT. These responsibilities will be equally balanced across the CxO roles as the responsibilities for the business processes that IT supports. Yes, there still will be a need technical IT people, probably centralized. But this will be lead by a traditional IT managers or in more and more cases outsourced to specialized IT suppliers.


    • Ralph: Interesting point, I don’t agree with you, but interesting none the less. The problem with your theory is that you are assuming that IT as a strategic advantage will go away, and I don’t think that that will happen anytime soon. The Walmarts, FedExs, and other firms that have found ways to harness IT are leaders in their industries. As long as everyone else wants to be like them there will be a need for a CIO to lead the charge…

      • Jim, wow I have read my reply again and do not understand where I lost you. I do think that IT will become more and more strategic. That is also why a IT must become an intergral part of the company. And that is why IT should not be the core competence of only one CxO role. I would balance IT responsibility across all CxO roles. Only in that way can IT be strategic.

        Like Jeff Bezos (Amazon) once said: we don’t have business and IT, we only have business. So integrate and don’t align. And once you have integrated IT as part of the business, then there will not be a separate “I” role on C-level anymore


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