The DNA of the CIO

dnaWe are not defined by our genes, but they sure are a good sign post for where we have been and where we are going. What are the building blocks of the CIO? What makes them tick? What makes some of them succeed and others fail? In a report released by Ernst & Young, these questions are answered in elaborate depth, as 301 senior IT professionals from around the world were surveyed in the report’s creation, including interviews with an additional 25 CIOs and polls taken from 40 respondents from across the C-suite. Just as the Human Genome Project mapped our genetics and cast humanity in a new light, this report seeks to map the DNA of the CIO. In the process, it helps us to more fully articulate and appreciate the CIO’s role in business.

The average CIO is, among other things, a 43-year old male, most commonly with a degree in IT, highly motivated, and could stand to improve on communication and leadership skills. When it comes to barriers of effectiveness for the CIO, lack of support from executives, budgetary restraints, and lack of clarity on corporate strategy top the list amongst polled CIOs, whereas amongst the C-suite polled, very few find budgetary restraints to be a concern for CIOs. Too often, the C-suite perceive CIOs as just the person who keeps the computers running, an idea that can stem from antiquated preconceptions rather than inherent maliciousness. The C-suite might even very much like the CIO, but being naïve as to how much a CIO is actually capable of achieving (which is more than they think), they just do not expect very much of the CIO.

But convincing the C-suite of their communication and analytical abilities is not all CIOs need to do to assert themselves. Of course, they also need to be very good at IT. As the report says:

Another major skillset that emerges from this study is the need to manage complex situations — in particular, major IT transformation projects. About three-quarters (74%) of CIOs rate project and change management skills as crucial for their role, while 77% regard an analytical approach and organizational skills as similarly important. This ability spans both day-to-day project management and the underlying politics. This requires CIOs to dare to assume responsibility for tough projects that not everyone would necessarily be bought into.

It goes on to delve into the future career aspirations of the CIO, breaking down the study’s findings into three categories, the “happy technocrat” who just enjoys working with technology, the “aspirational CIO” who enjoys the job but wants to have a seat at the senior management table, and finally the “business executive in
waiting,” who want to continue climbing the ladder. Whatever the circumstances or desires, this report succeeds at getting to the core of what makes a CIO a CIO, and the hope is that it will allow CIOs and other C-level executives alike to better understand the purpose of the CIO today.

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