What Does It Take To Be A Successful CIO?

CIOs want to find ways to be successful
CIOs want to find ways to be successful
Image Credit: GotCredit

Just think of all of the things that the person with the CIO job has to stay on top of: the explosive growth of cloud computing, the continued rise in business-managed IT spend, and incredible leaps in data analytics and automation. In this environment, a new generation of CIOs are leading the way by rewriting the culture of IT to better embrace the importance of information technology. They are replacing structure with fluidity, and control is being swapped for influence as business leaders and CIOs are finding new ways to collaborate and deliver business value. All faster, safer, and more cost-effectively than ever before. What areas do CIOs need to focus on in order to make all of this change happen?

Creating Value

CIOs can be fanatical about creating technology that makes a measurable difference to the top and bottom lines. They favor products over projects, and principles over practices. These are the CIOs who can have an influence throughout the company.


The real measure of the person in the CIO position’s importance is their influence, not their budget or their team size. They are comfortable with their budgets being owned elsewhere and are advocates of open sharing over centralized control. They understand that their credibility is built upon delivering business impact, regardless of how it’s built.


Often seen as “servant-leaders”, these CIOs know that their value is derived from the trust and partnership they have with the business and other technology executives such as the Chief Experience Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Data Officer. They drive community over hard lines, and encourage trust in their teams versus basing their success on individual performance metrics.

Gaining Expertise In Technology

They understand that what distinguishes them is their deep understanding of the possibilities of what technology can do, and they work hard to keep abreast of technology developments both internally and externally. Leading CIOs are world-class advisors and seek to build that skill into their teams.

Dealing With Uncertainty

The best CIOs are happy to start on journeys where the end point is not 100% certain. They can live with change and they embrace the ambiguity that comes with everything that they do. CIOs recognize that the best ideas are usually born from necessity, and experience typically comes from making mistakes.

Creating A New Operating Model

These high performing CIOs recognize that the technical debt of tomorrow will be an organization’s operating model, not its legacy platforms and systems. They champion the re-alignment of resources, technology, processes, and capabilities across the front, middle, and back office and measure performance of their team against business outcomes, not IT metrics.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to be a next generation CIO, it is important that you understand what it is going to take in order to become a leader who will be able to take the company from where it is to where it wants to be. Changes like this are not easy to make happen and so these innovative CIOs always have to be looking for ways to help the company to move forward.

Successful CIOs understand that they can’t just sit back and run the IT department. Instead, they have to seek out ways that they can create value. A key part of doing this is finding ways to exert their influence outside of the IT department. Being a successful CIO is not something that we can do by ourselves. Instead, we need to learn how to collaborate with the people who are going to help us to be successful. Since we are CIOs, we need to take the time to stay on top of all of the various technologies that we will become responsible for. Just exactly where we are going and what will happen when we get there is unknown, but successful CIOs don’t allow this to slow us down. We understand that in order to move forward we have to create a new operating model.

The world in which we are living is changing and changing very quickly. Our companies are facing new competitive threats that were not there only a few years ago. The CIO is no being called on to find ways to use technology to allow the company to better compete in its marketplace. We are the ones who understand technology and we know how it can be used to move the company forward. We need to take the time to make sure that we understand our technology and we know how we can use it in order to make both ourselves and our company successful.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
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Question For You: How much time during a given week do you think that a CIO should spend working with other departments?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

CIOs need to get ready for big changes that are coming their way: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is arriving. It was not all that long ago that AI was something that only Data Scientists dealt with. However, now things have changed. Companies that deal with such diverse things as manufacturing, finance, and even insurance are starting to take advantage of products that allow their workers to create AI tools for their business.