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5 Traits to Look for in an Effective CIO

There are times when you do not have the technology expertise required within your company to plan a project or to solve a problem that feels like it is crippling one or more business operations. There is no need to feel discouraged.

What your company might need is ongoing advice from an IT expert, known as a chief information officer (CIO). When a firm lacks a strong technology strategy, it is easy for competitors to move ahead and capture some of your market share. When you must search for a technology professional to lead your company and to make recommendations on IT strategy, it's important to find someone you can trust. An effective CIO typically demonstrates a range of qualities. A recent post on CIO.com suggested five, which we will certainly examine in this post. Developing these qualities is usually how someone with extensive technology experience and perhaps some background in management can advance to a senior leadership role. The individual could work inside a company or be contracted through an external firm.

1. Leadership.

Before you rush to hire someone, please remember there is a distinction between leadership and management. Any person who is a supervisor or manager needs leadership skills to oversee other workers, but some people are poor leaders because their colleagues, superiors, and subordinates don't feel inspired to work with them toward common goals. A person who leads others must manage relationships with external business partners and suppliers and the range of personalities within the organisation. Stakeholders may also emerge from anywhere to influence a project. That is why a person must work past other people's agendas and get results within established deadlines.

In a recent post, Management Today Debbie Klein wrote: 

Deep cultural change is needed in businesses to embrace inclusion but the all-round benefits have never been bigger.

Klein also referenced a recent study from McKinsey, which analysed the financial results of 366 companies in North and Latin America and the United Kingdom. This research revealed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 per cent more likely to demonstrate greater financial returns. Meanwhile, companies in the top quartile in terms of racial and ethnic diversity were 35 per cent more likely to outperform other companies without that diversity. A CIO should work with all types of people and come with a record of recruiting people from the outside regardless of their gender or racial, cultural, or ethnic background. 

2. Business Drive.

Someone who leads in the business world must weather the ups and downs of the business cycle. No leader will find success after success without experiencing some failures. It could be that some aspects of a tech project need to be refined, and, in other cases, that an entire project represents a firm's biggest technology investment, but it quickly becomes an epic failure. With a high degree of business drive, a tech leader is always focused on the bottom line and willing to take risks in the form of new ideas. 

3. Willingness to Learn.

An interesting aspect of the CIO role is how some technology officers find reaching this level of success means their days are numbered. You deserve to find a leader who obtains ideas from everywhere within the company and contracts out for specific roles and tasks when needed. If a CIO aligns projects mostly with his or her own ideas, these will not be diverse enough to ensure that a firm is competitive. One way to measure whether a technology role is crucial to a company is to gauge whether other IT employees incorporate the CIO's input on a regular basis. Furthermore, a CIO may have a position that reports directly to the CEO or may be assigned a lesser role, being outranked by someone like the Director of marketing. Many business functions within an organisation have evolved to resemble technology because they are increasingly based on automated systems, especially marketing, but the individuals managing those functions may not have a true IT background. 

4. Communication Skills.

Some qualities in the area of communication to target are honesty, sincerity, openness, and alignment with a team regardless of the project. These traits help a CIO achieve results without getting stuck on his or her role as head honcho. Furthermore, a CIO works with experts in different fields to research options in the planning stages of a new project, to communicate expectations for work to be achieved by each team member, and to solicit updates as a project unfolds. Many communication skills help an information leader stay appraised of a project's status, especially regarding the work of each individual and team. To ensure the overall quality of a project (i.e. developing a new platform or data infrastructure for an organisation), a CIO is not afraid to remove someone who fails to measure up to preset expectations.

5. Technology Adeptness.

The IT world has differentiated itself into so many fields that a company must source an individual with the right background. If your organisation is large with operational units around the globe, having knowledge of managing distant teams is a must. If your CIO needs to be an expert in artificial intelligence or defence computer information systems, you wouldn't hire someone perhaps from a car manufacturer. In-depth interviews help you determine the depth of knowledge that a potential leader has in your company's industry. While he or she does not need to come from the same type of organisation, having contacts within your industry is a plus.

When seeking a CIO for the first time to inform business strategy, it is more cost-effective to contract with a virtual expert. This is a person who communicates remotely with the people in your firm and exchanges information on an ad hoc basis. With virtual CIO services, your firm only pays for technology expertise as your projects demand it.

Topics: Management, Strategy

Written by Andrew Allen

As a Professional Member of The Chartered Institute for IT and his nearly 20 years in business, Andrew is able to connect with and help executives and owners leverage the power of technology to deliver lasting results.

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