Career upgrades

“I’ll tell you why chief information officers don’t become chief executives,” says Ruediger Spies, a 25-year veteran of the IT industry and an analyst for market watcher IDC. “They know too much.”

The burden of the CIO, he explains, is to be aware of the true nature of the organisation – to see it for what it really is. A CEO must constantly sell the organisation to both customers and investors; and, ironically, the realistic outlook of a CIO makes that kind of selling almost impossible.

“The CIO sees too many problems to be a salesman,” says Spies.

But while it may limit their potential in the CEO’s chair, as well as in the sales and marketing department, this knowledge is, of course, a powerful asset for senior IT executives.

IT has a unique cross-functional view of the workings of the organisation, often derived from implementation of IT systems that span the processes of multiple departments: they understand how different departments interact, which functions rely on which partners, and where the process bottlenecks lie.

This is often an under-exploited asset. In many organisations, it is the IT department’s role simply to keep this information available in case the business needs it.

But that role can change. In some organisations, the CIO is becoming the executive that uses their end-to-end view of the business and mediates across the various departments and partners to improve processes, to innovate and to foster collaboration.

For many, that is involving the development of new skills and approaches, as outlined in two features in this month’s issue: ‘The Agile revolution’ and ‘The evolution of the CIO’.

On the technological side, Agile development techniques are systematising the way the business requirements are substantiated in IT systems, ensuring flexibility that matches changing business needs, and fostering deep partnerships between IT and the business.

Perhaps more challenging for some IT professionals is the development of the political nous and inter-personal skills that are the hallmark of the pan-organisational CIO.

But as our feature highlights, that might attract a whole new group of both IT and non-IT people to the role.

Further reading

The evolution of the CIO
A new role is emerging for the chief information officer that puts IT’s top executive in charge of business collaboration, innovation and change management. But what qualities will be needed by the ‘new CIO’?

The Agile revolution
How a radical rethink of development processes has aligned software with the business

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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