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CIO’s Self-Reflection: Are You a Technologist or Business Leader?

The embattled CIO: always subject to a changing IT landscape and the disruptions of workplace restructurings. So what’s a CIO to do? Is it better to retain the status of technologist and IT guru, or must they fully succumb to business sensibilities? In the opinion of Pearl Zhu, the ideal CIO maintains both qualities. In her Future of CIO blog, Zhu helps us to understand how this balancing act might work.

Grand Master Tech

There will always be a demand for skilled technologists, of which the CIO must be a master. However, most IT staffers, by their very calling, are also adept at using and building technologies. Therefore the CIO, savvy as they may be, is only important insofar as they can manage and lead other technologists.

IT Business General

By the same token, if a CIO were only versed in technical applications, would it not be just as effective to send a developer to the conference room table to represent IT? This is where the CIO taps his or her head in a gesture that signals their unique competence as a leader and strategist. Never send a foot soldier to do the job of a general.


[A]CIO's knowledge of technology must be deep enough to offer the Business solutions that drive costs low, and [that]bring about…effective operations. The variety of modern IT technology and their rapid obsolescence assumes that it [is] almost impossible to know all IT technologies. In the best case, [a] CIO's knowledge of IT must be a mile wide and an inch deep…It is strategy that “drives” the business. CIOs must anticipate changes to their business and respond before the business come[s] knocking.

Fully, the CIO position is a hybridized attitude. You can’t have an either / or mentality and still function as a master tech geek and a swaggering strategist. Certainly, there will be instances when one set of skills are valued more than the other. Yet you can never really separate the two without becoming very un-CIO.

Read Zhu’s full blog at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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