The demands placed upon CIO’s and IT Directors are constantly and rapidly evolving. The ‘every business is a tech business’ sentiment of the digital era has brought a deeper understanding of the Cloud, Social, Big Data, SaaS IaaS, PaaS et al right into the Boardroom. However, let’s be clear, it’s not this that has given CIO’s their greater influence. It has been the sharp elbows of those CIO’s driving commercial benefits from each innovation cycle, making their place known and valued. Top table stuff, for top table leaders.
For a while, the shorthand of ‘mini-CIO’ seemed to prevail in almost all CIO leadership team hires. It might be lazy shorthand for a bunch of traits and behaviours, but in the main people ‘got it’. Mini- CIO hints at the need for influence beyond simple functional doing, and the interpersonal skills to engrain commercial drivers into functional IT teams. It was invariably a product of firms having to do less with more in the recessionary years. As greater confidence has returned to the market, firms are willing to invest more in delivering transformative change.
Change breeds opportunity, and this is invariably in all aspects of people, process and of course technology. This amplifies the need for strong, bold, delivery minded leadership. And with this has come a growing up of the ‘mini-CIO’ requirement! A number of recent reference calls and client meetings have brought out the same sentiment. The benefit of having someone who is really ‘on’ the CIO agenda is beyond measure. Having another ‘me’ on the team; another CIO, is high on the wish list, especially as we are steadily returning to a phase of doing more with more.
The logic is clear; having ‘a CIO on the team’ is a positive asset. Of course, an internal battle for the top spot serves no one well. However, if the ‘fit’ is right and the relationship is well managed, then benefits are far reaching. Broadening the wedge of commercially minded, business outputs, led IT leadership into the business may be sufficient to justify it alone, particularly if you consider the mirror image impact back into IT. From demand creation / management, through agile delivery, and business led service delivery and operational excellence, the potential wins are plentiful.
To be clear, I am not advocating that people routinely over recruit a role. Trying to squeeze a pint into a half pint pot, without a plan for the overspill, will always end in a mess. I would rather suggest that evolving talent and aspirant leaders seek to play ‘upwards’ and place themselves firmly on the CIO agenda. Play your part; ensure your team understand their contribution beyond the tech, and seek to positively affect business performance through timely responsive and proactive delivery, not just deliver systems. Your CIO (and business) needs you to be a senior manager first, and a functional manager a close and important second. This way succession planning surely lies?
Deliver, deliver and deliver some more. If the business does not value this, then it is highly likely they will get the IT leadership they deserve, and that is not a team you want to be on. The best leaders evolve quickly and continuously. The simple fact remains they cannot be all things to all people all of the time. It is through the right team that great leaders extend their effectiveness, and successfully bring successful delivery, come rain or shine.
Matt Cockbill is a Partner, and Head of IT Leadership & Technology Practices for Berwick Partners.