Five Ways to Become a Best-in-Class CIO


By Samuel Greengard

Today's high-octane business environment is heaping pressure on CIOs to step beyond systems and solutions and address business needs on a more holistic basis. Here are five essential qualities of an effective CIO:

Communicate, communicate, communicate! It sounds like something straight out of the Business 101 handbook, but more CIOs could excel at communication and collaboration. It's critical to understand overarching business needs, trends and challenges—and to foster interaction across departments, functions and roles. This means learning to speak the language of HR, finance, marketing, operations and legal. It also means connecting to the board of directors and workers on the front lines of the business.

Become an advocate of the business. It's easy to forget that IT doesn't run the business; instead, it enables business processes. Too often, CIOs are so focused on keeping the lights on and the motor running that they lose sight of what's really important: customers. Building relationships across the enterprise is essential. Fully understanding business needs is paramount. Taking a proactive stance toward business-IT solutions that work in the real world is mission critical.

Knock down walls, silos and barriers. Turf battles tear at the fabric of any organization. A key problem is that different departments and groups often march to the beat of their own—and too often self-centered—metrics and KPIs. Well-designed processes and IT systems can ensure that everyone remains on track… and different constituencies receive immediate feedback about performance. The CIO is at the center of this crucial task.

Embrace Innovation. “CIO” might have once stood for “chief information officer.” Today, it might as well mean chief innovation officer while “IT” more accurately maps to the term “innovation technology.” The ability to move swiftly and adopt flexible solutions—particularly centering on cloud computing and SaaS-based models—can determine whether a company succeeds—or drowns in a sea of red ink.

Seek knowledge and skills. IT is now too complex for any one person to know all and do all. Big data, clouds, mobility, social collaboration, security and other initiatives require different types of expertise and skill sets than in times past. Although the need to manage IT systems hasn't gone away, this new world of information technology requires a CIO who can hire and develop the right combination of knowledge and skills.

Embracing these five qualities is essential to your success as a CIO. If there are other CIO qualities you think are equally important, please share them in our comments section.