August 20, 2019 by Siobhan Climer and Jason Wankovsky
The term Chief Information Officer – or CIO – first originated in the text Information Resource Management: Opportunities and Strategies for the 1980s, published in 1981. In it, authors William Synnot and William Gruber lay a vision for a C-suite executive, an equal of the CEO and CFO, who aligns technology to the business for the betterment of the organization.
Today, organizations around the world rely on the CIO to design and implement technology strategy that leads the business to success. In some organizations and industries, this role may be assumed by the Information Technology (IT) Director. Regardless of the title, this individual is a leader, directing strategy, delivering everything from data availability to security, and ensuring the organization successfully employs technology resources.
To meet the internal needs of the organization, which can run the gamut from a broken printer to a firewall to a cloud migration, the IT leader must not only be technically skilled, but more importantly, understand how technology facilitates the growth and prospects of the business.
#1: Building A Team
Without the right people, the CIO and greater technology vision of the organization cannot be successful. Building a team with high-performers, diverse skill sets, and even atypical backgrounds can help you develop that strategy.
Not only that, but all teams across the organization are empowered by senior technology leadership. Ensuring employees have the right technologies at their fingertips gives your business the best chance on all fronts, from accounting to marketing, recruitment to service delivery.
The reality today is that CIOs have a broad range of highly intelligent, creative technologists ready to join the team. Identifying those high-performing candidates – and then aligning them strategically in the organization – is a challenge with a big reward.
According to Charles Cagle, CTO with Paycor, these individuals are high-risk, high-reward. Excellent teams “thrive on change, process improvement and delivering significant benefits to the business”; however, “they cost more to acquire and deliver over-the-top results but will dissolve quickly if not cared for with increasingly interesting and complex projects.”
#2: Providing Professional Development
Professional development is more than just upgrading certifications and getting an MBA. Today, CIOs not only need to stay abreast of technology developments, they also need to communicate disruptive developments to their internal teams, some of which may not be tech-savvy.
IT leadership trends continue to show a focus on educating all individuals across the organization and building a structured education and engagement plan. In a recent Deloitte CIO report, 96% of CIOs considered educating the business about tech to be their responsibility, but only 66% had initiatives in place to develop tech literacy.
Buzzwords are buzzing, and CIOs need to be proactive in assisting the business in being strategic. While the rest of the C-suite and teams across the business may be demanding cloud computing, AI data analysis, or – please forgive us – blockchain, the CIO is responsible for elucidating the realities around these technologies and how they may or may not feed into business strategy.
#3: Including Diversity and Non-traditional Perspectives
From women to marginalized groups to cross-generational divides, the importance of diversity and non-traditional perspectives is hot on the list of IT leadership trends. While there are societal developments – such as the #metoo movement – that are directing this discourse, there is also a growing pile of evidence that diversity leads to profits.
In fact, the Peterson Institute for International Economics found a direct correlation between female leadership and financial growth, with a statistically significant growth of 1 percentage point in net margin for organizations at which at least 30% of leaders are women.
Tech companies around the globe are taking note, finding that recruiting through non-traditional pipelines provides a wealth of hitherto hidden talent. Diverse teams also better represent users and the audience, lead to more creative problem-solving, and improve performance overall.
CIOs are seeing this play out in the development of IT teams. Building, mentoring, and growing diversity initiatives are good for the technology and the company.
#4: Leading Digital Transformation
It’s happening every day. New technologies are released, competitors leverage that tech in a new way, and you fall behind. That’s why one of the biggest IT leadership trends in 2019 is innovation.
CIOs used to be considered successful if they kept the lights on. That is no longer the case. The business side of the organization is looking to the CIO to deliver strategic digital initiatives to the business that keep the company from falling behind.
These changes happen quickly. Only by being a change agent adept at identifying and leveraging key technologies will a CIO and IT leadership in general deliver real results that will grow the business.
#5: Integrating Emotional Intelligence
The same Deloitte report that found continuing education to be among the top IT leadership trends also noted an oddity around emotional intelligence. While CIOs almost unanimously agree that IT needs to have a user-centric focus and understand human factors, these soft skills are deemed important to exist at some level in the team, not necessarily leadership.
Doug Barbin, a practice leader with Shellman and Co., “Emotional intelligence doesn’t have to exist across the entire team.” Barbin goes on to note the rise in behavioral assessment tools that can augment a leader’s own emotional intelligence, or lack thereof.
At the same time, technology leaders across the world remain convinced that mastering interpersonal skills, such as negotiating, morale building, relationship maintenance, and empathy are key to successful leadership.
LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, says “soft skills are more important than knowing how to code” in today’s job environment.
Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba, says: “Customers should be number one, employees number two, and then only your shareholders come at number three.”
Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, says: “Taking care of your employees is extremely important and very, very visible.”
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About The Authors
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s reading and writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.
Jason Wankovsky is the Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Consulting Services at Mindsight, an IT Services and Consulting firm located in the Chicago area. Jason has over 20 years of experience in IT management and executive leadership and is responsible for Mindsight’s technology vision. He is also focused on the creation and delivery of high value managed services for clients across multiple industries. Jason leads the solution architecture team that is responsible for delivering optimal technology services and solutions that enable the businesses of clients.