What Is The #1 IT Skill That A CIO Needs To Have?

by drjim on December 29, 2008

CIOs Need One Critical Missing Skill In Order To Make Good Decisions

CIOs Need One Critical Missing Skill In Order To Make Good Decisions

Today’s CIOs are expected to have many more sets of skills than those that they followed did. One can only suspect that the CIOs of tomorrow will be faced with even higher expectations. Cloud computing, outsourcing, insourcing, business alignment, top line growth, bottom line growth – which one is the most important to know the most about? It turns out that the answer is none of these.

A little secret that nobody ever talks about is that the higher in an organization that you rise, the less “real work” you actually get to do. Many first time IT managers struggle with this new reality – they are the ones who can’t help but do the work of those that they mange.

Jack Welch probably said it best in his biography Jack: Straight from the Gut when he said that as CEO of GE, really all he was able to do was to hire and fire people and approve budgets – that’s it! CIOs are in the same situation, so what is the #1 skill that they must have?

Simple, the ability to reach conclusions when all that they have to work with is ambiguous evidence. Think about it for a moment, all of the information that a CIO gets has been heavily filtered by the rest of the IT organization. If there are any unpopular opinions, then they have probably been censored before reaching the CIO. An slanted or partisan viewpoints have been masked as objective arguments. There is even the possibility that honest mistakes have been made.

CIO’s need to have a type of analytical rigor that will allow them to make sense of the information that is presented to them. This is the skill that will allow them to sort through all of the information that crosses their desk and will allow them to dive down and finally get to the real story.

The big question for tomorrow’s CIOs is how can you get the bottom of things when all that you have to work with is incomplete information? How can you present yourself to your colleagues and to your IT department as an authentic IT leader in such a way that others will be willing to follow you?

One of the most dangerous things that can mislead a CIO is his/her own opnion. Sure we all have an opinion; however, if we pre-judge a situation and reach our own opinion too quickly then we can find ourselves falling into a pattern of belief. We may do this because it’s simple to do or because it fits some particular social need.

However, the problem with our opinions is that they don’t necessarily have to be true. If a CIO chooses to believe something because of just the information that has been presented to him/her, then its going to be very hard to get him/her to surrender that belief.

Too many of us like to say that we keep an open mind when we really don’t. In order to be an effective CIO both today and tomorrow, we’re going to need to make sure that we work very hard to make good decisions. This means that we’ve got to realize that we will never have complete information. What we need to do is find ways to use the partial information that we have to get to the bottom of the issues. Then, and only then, will we be effective CIOs.

Have you ever had to make a decision without all of the information that you needed? How did you go about reaching a decision? Was it the right decision? What would you have done differently if you could go back and make that decision again? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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