CIO: A Leader for All Seasons

CIO: A Leader for All Seasons Author: Matt Cockbill Published: 17 October 2017

Our recent Midlands CIO Dinner lived up to its reputation for candid, open and constructive peer to peer dialogue, shared over a tremendous meal. We were privileged to be joined by leaders from an array of sectors including Manufacturing, Logistics, Insurance, Social Housing, Travel and Utilities. While this presented a diversity of business need, there were some distinct common areas of focus and challenge. 

Unsurprisingly ‘digital’ and what it means to any business was a topic on people’s lips. With unilateral agreement that all of IT is digital but not all digital is IT, the recent Gartner comments about CMO spend likely to exceed CIO spend on technology in the near future were agreed as broadly unhelpful! It may be an interesting observation, but it distracts from the stuff that matters; technology enhanced and enabled commercial performance improvement, and effective cross functional collaboration. Not one of our guests measures their worth by volume of spend.

Data was another prevalent theme. As owners of storage, governance and the tools to collect, curate and exploit data assets, CIO’s are at the heart of the data revolution. The healthy sentiment on this theme was that CIO’s have a ‘mid-stream’ contribution to make; enabling data refinement, distribution and consumption. Add to this cyber security, information assurance and business risk, and you naturally transition onto the elephant in the room; GDPR. 

GDPR is rightly front of mind. The consequences of getting it wrong, falling foul of an ICO fine, the associated commercial and reputational damage, are potentially catastrophic. Understandably much of this dialogue must remain Chatham House. However, we unearthed a concerning trend of boards nudging GDPR towards the CIO’s desk. If ever there was a whole board issue it is this!

Accepting challenges, helping solve operational problems and enabling business effectiveness and efficiency is common currency for CIO’s. Armed with a unique systemic view of the business, the underlying process map, well-disciplined delivery resources, robust supporting governance and a hard wired contribution to innovation, it’s unsurprising the CIO is central to major transformation and change. 

Saying a CIO is a versatile beast is an understatement. And “boardroom Swiss Army knife” is certainly a trade up from “the IT guy”. Though labelling CIO’s the ultimate utility player risks devaluing their contribution. As multi-faceted business leaders, CIO’s are a community keen to be invaluable. 

Without doubt the group at dinner were ever ready to meet fresh business challenges, and take a lead in solving commercial problems. But none aspired to be seen as fixers alone. The role of CIO is ever evolving. And its evolution, not a change of lane to a different role, that was firing up our dinner guests. The talk was of proudly wearing the CIO cap, not becoming COO or more. Keep the challenges coming; digital, data, cyber and more. Be it people process or technology the contemporary CIO is willing and able to lead in every mode. 

For more information on this or other IT leadership events, please contact Matt Cockbill, Partner and head of the IT & Digital Leadership Practice

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