New research into the role of the CIO has highlighted what recently appointed incumbents must do to succeed in their new position.
Despite potentially being more important than ever before, CIOs are still often seen as ‘the black sheep’ of the C-suite, according to Professor Joe Peppard from the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin.
“Historically, the CIO has been cast as a techie – more comfortable working on the technical aspects of IT systems than helping to devise and deliver overall business strategy,” he says.
“This is accurate and needs to change. In the age of big data, the strategic importance of information is clear – and it is the CIO’s responsibility to work with C-suite colleagues to make sure that this information is harnessed in the most beneficial way. With the level of digital literacy in the boardroom still far too low, the CIO must step up and act like a legitimate business leader in order to make sure this happens.”
Professor Peppard suggests five things news CIOs should do to become credible and legitimate business leaders:
1. Be prepared for surprises, even after extensive due diligence
Nothing beats actually being in your new organisation. You have to remember that the initial information you collected was given to you in a process designed to encourage you to join the company or accept the new position.
2. Use the first 90 days to learn about the organisation
This goes beyond simply diagnosing IT problems and assessing your IT leadership team. It includes understanding the political environment, company culture and strategy as a whole as well as who the company power brokers are.
3. Recognise that what worked for you in the past might not be successful again
Successful transitions are described as ‘doing the right things, the right way’. Understand the company’s culture and capacity for change and institute an action plan that fits.
4. Build a shared vision for the role and contribution of IT
Being forward-looking – envisioning exciting possibilities and galvanising others in a shared view of the future – is the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from non-leaders.
5. Build C-Suite IT savvy by delivering demonstrative value
The best way to increase the IT savvy of your executive stakeholders is to demonstrate how IT can generate value and enable key business strategies. It is important to set realistic expectations and measure business results post-implementation. Once projects begin to yield value, you can start building momentum. Remember, most executives will not have bought into the shared responsibility view of IT and will see anything to do with information and IT as falling outside the scope of their responsibilities.