The CIO is no longer merely the head of IT in an organisation. He is much more than a technocrat or even a team leader. As his role becomes increasingly strategic, he needs to be a risk taker and action oriented instead of just a cog in the wheel of IT maintenance and decision making. Today the CIO definitely needs to influence and driving organizational change since IT leadership needs to change as rapidly as technology itself. CIOs are shifting towards creating roadmaps for strategic change rather than just ensuring IT works. Today their role is seeing greater emphasis on leadership skills that will drive digital transformation than the traditional responsibility of keeping the lights on.
Skills and abilities to lead technology teams are still the focus of the role, though, and the added need is to understand and master digital strategies to add value to their IT operations. The trend today is more about innovation and revenue generation. To be able to meet these expectations, organisations need to see their tech leaders in a new light – they need to shift their approaches to IT leadership, broadening their influence and emphasizing organizational change.
So what should they be focusing on?
The Ability to Build High-Performance Teams: Deloitte’s 2018 Global CIO Survey shows that a majority of CIOs feel that efficient team building capabilities were a very critical skill that helped them succeed in their careers and would continue to be valued in the next few years. Many realise that while hiring younger staff with less experience, across domains and industries can be uncomfortable, it is necessary. The tech leaders need to convince the stakeholders of this necessary change and so they need to use all their skills drawn from the personal network building.
Tech experts need to become influencers : in addition to technical expertise the ability to detail a vision for the business is the mandate today. Strong business skills, pitching innovative ideas, business focus and the ability to sell- internally as well as externally, even to investors- is what makes a good CIO today.
Insights into external perspectives: more and more CIOs will need to keep an open mind to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing business space, and the even faster tech scene. The tech influencers can help them do that – experts who endorse the game-changing technology to cater to the CIOs and their business needs.
Ability to take risks: Its common knowledge that disruptive technology can now perform in ways that traditional teams can’t, and the tech leader needs to take the plunge now or it will be too late to transform. Rapid innovation needs higher risk taking abilities, and CIOs need to be there!
Ongoing learning abilities: the trend to continually be in the learning mode is a strong weapon against getting left behind- whether in technology subjects or leadership abilities. It needs the ability to, as mentioned above, keep an open mind, and the willingness to learn even if one has reached the top. Deloitte’s CIO report says, ”Enterprise-wide technology literacy requires more than one-off water cooler conversations. Well-structured education, communication, and engagement plan can help. While nearly all surveyed CIOs (96 percent) consider educating the business about technology issues to be one of their responsibilities, only 66 percent have developed proactive educational initiatives that reach beyond the executive level to help build tech fluency across the organization.”
Without a doubt, today, business is leading the conversation, and CIOs need to deploy all technologies that it demands – machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation- to meet the focus – improve business results.
Beyond a Generalist Mentality: IT leaders no longer need to deliver all and everything by way of technology to business teams. Their job is to augment IT teams with subject matter experts that can become part of their staff.
Being a Non techie tech leader: Deloitte managing director Kristi Lamar sees a rise in firms hiring workers who don’t have technology backgrounds but are capable and willing to learn. Ensuring diversity of thoughts and experiences drives higher productivity at the highest level and they live for the kind of transformational changes that are made daily through IT.
Being a change agent: Keeping the lights on is a small part of a CIO’s agenda today, they need to be drivers of organisation wide change- leveraging technology as well as leadership skills. Bringing about a transformation is the agenda- just leading technology teams is passé.