From IT director to CEO – the route to the top?

Heads of IT concerned about their future during the economic downturn need worry no more: they should escape the IT department and run the company instead.

Academic research now supports the argument that this is a viable career path for ambitious technology managers. Challenging a number of stereotypes, researchers at Santa Clara University in California found that senior IT staff have a strong cross-business perspective, come into their own in reducing organisational complexity and are not hamstrung by allegiance to a particular business function.

The researchers, who interviewed mid and executive level IT professionals at more than 200 organisations in the public and private sector, based their findings on the InQ psychology test, which categorises thinking styles according to how people process information.

Each response is linked to five category areas: ‘synthesists’ are able to find relationships in things that, to others, have no apparent connection; ‘idealists’ are future-oriented and take a broad, holistic view of things; ‘pragmatists’ are flexible and adaptive and thrive on action; ‘analysts’ prefer predictability and rationality and are logical, structured and prescriptive; and, finally, ‘realists’ base their conclusions firmly on what they can see and hear.

The IT group generally scored well in the idealist and pragmatist categories but did worse than expected in the analyst category. That suggests that IT professionals are more inclined towards high-level strategic thinking than is often assumed – and tend to be less concerned with technical details.

One example of someone on that path: Robin Phipps, former IT director of insurance group Legal and General and now, as group director of UK operations, heirapparent to the company’s chief executive. Another is Hermann-Josef Lamberti, Deutsche Bank’s chief operating officer and primary IT decision-maker. For more on the changing role of the IT director in this issue of Information Age, see our roundtable with three IT decision-makers, ‘On borrowed time?’

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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