Communication, Not Tech, Is Job #1 for CIOs

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Whenever enterprises are asked about the greatest challenges facing IT, they invariably reply that it's ensuring technology helps drive and change the business, not just polish existing processes to greater efficiency.


Finding the path to this kind of transformational IT has been a challenge, and businesses have tried different mechanisms, such as IT steering committees, with various degrees of success. But most often, one individual-the CIO-is expected to envision how technology can help mold the business.


But what if you are new to the business?


In his book "The Transformational CIO," author Hunter Muller interviews real-world CIOs about the daunting dual role of business catalyst and technical guru. In an excerpt from the book, "Tech Last," Muller concludes that the first order of business for any new CIO is getting to know the business before getting behind a new data warehouse or desktop virtualization push.


The book chapter is available free to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library.


Muller spoke to several CIOs, all of whom agreed that the first thing a new CIO needs to do is develop a culture of trust between themselves and not only other executives, but business managers and staff members who really know what is going on in the business. CIOs can't expect these people to come to them-the onus is on the new tech boss to build connections in the first 30 days to help him or her develop a complete picture of the business.


Only after a CIO truly understands a business can he or she begin to push for changes. Of course, change can't happen all at once, and in Muller's view, the "transformational CIO" is the person to drive that prioritization. He writes:

Your job as CIO is figuring out which priorities must be addressed today, and which can wait until tomorrow. Then you need to figure out the best way of explaining to everyone how you determined which projects will be pursued now and which projects will be pursued later.

Obviously, this is not coming from the perspective of an enterprise with an active IT steering committee.


Still, Muller's advice to build and maintain a culture of transparency is useful wisdom to any CIO, whether they have been on the job 2 weeks or 5 years.

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